(Adds State Department spokesman)
WASHINGTON Oct 12 A U.S. lawmaker urged the
Obama administration to suspend cooperation with a Saudi-led
coalition conducting airstrikes in Yemen, saying in a letter
released on Wednesday that civilian casualties from the strikes
"appear to be the result of war crimes."
Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, wrote to Secretary of
State John Kerry on Tuesday, saying the coalition had conducted
more than 70 "unlawful airstrikes" in Yemen.
"It appears that either the Saudi coalition is intentionally
targeting civilians or they are not distinguishing between
civilians and military targets. Both would be war crimes," wrote
Lieu, who had taught classes on the law of war when he was a
lawyer in the U.S. Air Force.
His letter increases pressure on the White House over Yemen
after the administration announced Saturday it was reviewing
support to the Saudi-led coalition after an air strike killed
140 mourners at a funeral.
U.S. arms sales to Riyadh and other support to the coalition
should be halted until the White House review is completed, Lieu
Lieu also cited a Reuters article published on Monday, which
reported that the Obama administration went ahead with arms
sales to Saudi Arabia despite some officials' fears that
Washington could be implicated in war crimes for supporting the
Saudi-led air campaign.
The Saudi-led coalition has said it takes its
responsibilities under international humanitarian law seriously,
and is committed to the protection of civilians in Yemen.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement on
Wednesday: "We have received the letter, and are aware of
congressional concerns regarding arms sales to Saudi Arabia. We,
too, remain gravely concerned by the high toll of the conflict,
including civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure
caused by all sides of the conflict."
"Aid and assistance for any country are always under review
and subject to modification. We are going to review our position
and continue to have further policy discussions," Kirby said.
Several recent efforts in the U.S. Congress to halt arms
sales to Saudi Arabia have failed.
But the White House on Saturday announced it was initiating
an "immediate review" of U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition
after the apparent coalition air strike on the funeral.
Saudi Arabia has said it will investigate the circumstances
of that strike.
(Reporting by Warren Strobel; Editing by Alistair Bell and