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Saudi Arabia off U.N. blacklist after 'total rupture' threat

Saudi Arabia

A United Nations’ official told CNN that Saudi Arabia and its Muslim allies put “massive” pressure on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to take the kingdom off a blacklist it was on for killing children in Yemen – and that the pressure obviously worked: The kingdom was removed from the list this week.

The pressure in the form of diplomatic calls and visits to the U.N. chief at the global body’s New York headquarters was intense enough that Saudi Arabia ultimately vowed a “total rupture” of its relationship with the United Nations, a threat that carried the potential of a loss of hundreds of millions in donations to U.N. humanitarian causes, the official said.

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Clerics in the kingdom, meanwhile, also suggested the issuance of an anti-U.N. fatwa and declaration of the global body as “anti-Muslim,” CNN reported.

“[The pressure was] massive,” the official said, to the news organization. “Beyond anything ever seen.”

In response, the United Nations took Saudi Arabia off its blacklist earlier this week, CNN reported.

Amnesty International raised immediate objections, accusing the United Nations of “blatant pandering” to the Saudis and saying the removal of the kingdom from the blacklist “undermines all of the U.N.’s work to protect children caught up in war.” Human Rights Watch and 19 other rights’ groups, meanwhile, called on Ban in a letter to immediately put Saudi Arabia and its partners back on the “list of shame.”

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A report from the United Nations had found a Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 percent of the nearly 2,000 children deaths in Yemen in 2015. And the global body is standing by that finding, despite its removal of Saudi Arabia from its blacklist.

“Every word stands and we stand by the figures and the information contained in the report,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, CNN reported. “It paints a horrific picture of the suffering of Yemenese civilians, especially the Yemeni children.”