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Conflicting US statements on arms to Saudi coalition

April 8, 2015 at 8:49 am

A top U.S. official said on Tuesday that arm deliveries to the Saudi-led coalition striking Houthi rebel in Yemen has been accelerated, but the State Department declined to confirm his remarks.

“Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told reporters during a visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

“As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center,” he added.

But State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said reports about Blinken’s remarks are not “accurate.”

“I think those actually aren’t entirely accurate representations of the conversations on the ground. I’m checking with the Deputy Secretary and his team,” she said.

“It’s my understanding that he reiterated our long-standing policy of providing logistical support that the military is providing to the Saudi-led coalition, but I’m checking on those details,” Harf said.

A Pentagon spokesman seemed to confirm Blinken’s position saying the U.S. will provide new arms and accelerate an already pending order.

“It’s a combination of pre-existing orders made by our partner nations and some new requirements as they expend munitions,” said Col. Steve Warren, when asked about Blinken’s remarks.

Saudi Arabia, alongside with several Arab allies, are conducting air-strikes against Houthi rebels who took control of the capital Sanaa in September and have since sought to expand their control throughout the country.

In February they placed Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour under house arrest before he managed to flee to southern Yemen then to Saudi Arabia.

Predominantly Sunni Gulf states resorted to military intervention, at the request of Hadi, when the Houthis appeared poised for a complete takeover of Yemen.

The Saudi-led intervention’s stated goal is to push the Houthis back to a U.N.-led political accord but the rebels have said they will engage in peace negotiations only if the air-strikes are halted.