Reuters International

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss government blocked on Wednesday exports to the Middle East of war materiel worth some 19 million Swiss francs (£13.7 million) that it suspected could wind up fuelling the year-long war in Yemen.

The government approved around 185 million francs worth of military exports to the region, mostly parts and components for air defence systems in Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE that it said were unlikely to be deployed in Yemen.

But it rejected unidentified Swiss companies' requests to send small arms, ammunition, spare parts, 25,000 hand grenades and more than 8,000 shells to the region, the neutral country's cabinet said in a statement.

It also blocked sending an armoured personnel carrier to Qatar for testing and exports of large amounts of small-caliber ammunition and propellant to the United Arab Emirates.

The Yemen conflict has killed at least 6,200 people and caused a humanitarian crisis, prompting the Swiss to keep a close eye on arms exports to countries involved in the fighting.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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