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Rights group tries to block new Saudi ship from leaving France with arms

Christian Fernsby |
A French rights group sought on Tuesday to block the loading of what it said were munitions onto a Saudi Arabian ship docked in southern France, as pressure mounts on Paris to stop military sales to the kingdom.

ACAT said in a statement it had filed a legal challenge to prevent the vessel from taking delivery of its cargo.

“The Bahri Tabuk is due to load French weapons for Saudi Arabia, one of the main belligerents in the Yemeni conflict. ACAT is .... mobilising and calling on civil society and local networks to prevent these munitions from going to Saudi Arabia,” it said.

Another Saudi ship left France’s northern coast two weeks ago without a cargo of weapons after dockers threatened to block its arrival in the port of Le Havre.

ACAT had also filed a legal challenge to stop that consignment being loaded, arguing that it contravened a U.N. treaty because the arms might be used against civilians in the Yemeni conflict.

The Bahri Tabuk, which is owned by the same company as the previous Saudi vessel, docked on Tuesday afternoon and was due to load its cargo on Wednesday, dock workers union official Laurent Pastor told Reuters.

Citing sources, online investigative site Disclose said on Tuesday the cargo to be loaded at the port of Marseille-Fos included munitions for Caesar howitzers.

“It is out of the question that we load weapons or munitions for any war,” Pastor said. He said the cargo had initially been due to include electrical transformers and that the union would check again on Wednesday.

Defence Minister Florence Parly told lawmakers she had no information on the shipment and that in any case France had a partnership with Saudi Arabia.

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