UK opposition leader calls for Saudi arms sales halt
The leader of Britain's main opposition party has called on the Prime Minister to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia ahead of a visit by the kingdom's powerful crown prince.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday said Theresa May should use Mohammed bin Salman's visit to take a tough stance on the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.
"May should use this visit to announce the UK will no longer supply arms to Saudi Arabia while the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen continues," Corbyn told The New Arab in an e-mailed statement.
He added that the UK leader should also "make clear Britain's strong opposition to widespread human and civil rights abuses in Saudi Arabia."
The UK has licensed £4.6 billion ($6.3 billion) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it began the intervention in neighbouring Yemen, which has seen the deaths of thousands of civilians.
Corbyn has previously spoken out against British weapon sales to Riyadh.
Last July, the Labour leader told Al Jazeera that he was "shocked" by the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen.
"We have constantly condemned the use of these weapons by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and called for the suspension of the arms sales to Saudi Arabia to show that we are wanting a peace process in Yemen, not an invasion by Saudi Arabia," he said.
"I'm totally shocked by the war in Yemen. Totally shocked by the bombardment that's taken place, by the killings that have happened," he added.
More than 9,200 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's fight against the Houthi rebels.
More than eight million people are at risk of famine as port blockades, cholera and diphtheria bring the Arab world's most impoverished country to its knees.
A coalition of UK-based human rights groups have said a protest will be held in London on Wednesday against the state visit by Prince Mohammed.
The coalition plans to demonstrate outside the prime minister's residence in Downing Street over Riyadh's human rights record and atrocities in the war in Yemen.
"This visit should not be taking place. The crown prince is the figurehead of a dictatorship with one of the worst human rights records in the world," Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade told The New Arab.
In a statement last week, May said Prince Mohammed's visit will usher in a new era in relations between the two longtime allies.
The UK leader praised the 32-year-old for pushing through major social reforms - such as allowing women to drive - in the conservative kingdom. Critics say the reforms are superficial and are meant to promote a new image of the rulers as reformers.