UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday (Friday in Manila) criticized Saudi Arabia and its allies for resorting to “undue pressure” to remove the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen from a UN blacklist by threatening to cut off funding. Ban’s decision to take the coalition off the list of child rights violators triggered a storm of protest from rights groups who charge the UN chief caved in to Saudi pressure and damaged the world body’s credibility. In his first public remarks about the uproar, Ban said he took the “painful and difficult” decision when he faced the “very real prospect” that millions of children would suffer if countries de-funded many programs. “It is unacceptable for member-states to exert undue pressure,” Ban told reporters. “Scrutiny is a natural and necessary part of the United Nations.” The United Nations blacklisted the coalition after concluding in a report released a week ago that it was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 children killed in Yemen last year.