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World powers turn screw on Yemen rebels

Update: April, 15/2015 - 13:07

UNITED NATIONS — World powers united against Yemen's Huthi rebels on Tuesday, hitting them with a United Nations arms embargo and new United States sanctions.

The UN Security Council vote came after Iran, which is accused of backing the rebels, proposed a cease-fire followed by foreign-mediated talks.

The Huthi revolt has forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the impoverished Arab state and threatens to provoke a humanitarian disaster.

The conflict has also further heightened tensions in the broader Middle East, with Saudi Arabia accusing Iran of fomenting the rebellion.

A Saudi-led coalition of Sunni-led states has launched air strikes against the Shiite rebels, and the civilian death toll is mounting.

The UN Security Council responded by slapping an arms embargo on the Huthis and demanding their fighters withdraw from the capital Sanaa.

Separately, the United States demanded that Iran obey the embargo and added two top figures in the rebellion to its sanctions blacklist.

Iran, meanwhile, was working on its own plan to end the conflict, proposing a negotiated peace plan that would lead to a power-sharing government.

Saudi air strikes

Saudi Arabia, which is determined to punish the Shiite rebels on its borders for driving its ally from Sanaa, will give that short shrift.

Saudi spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri told reporters the UN resolution shows the world supports the Saudi-led intervention.

"The United Nations vote today was a victory for the Yemen citizens before anyone else," he said, adding the Council "sees the dangers in Yemen". The UN Security Council resolution was the first formal action by the body since the start of Saudi air strikes on March 26.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, addressing reporters in Madrid, said world powers should instead back Tehran's peace plan.

"I proposed a cease-fire followed by all inclusive Yemeni dialogue that is facilitated by others," he said.

This could lead, he argued, "to the formation of a government in Yemen that represents a broadly based community." The Huthis, drawn from Yemen's Shiite Zaidi minority, stormed Sanaa in September 2014, sweeping south from their highland stronghold.

Undaunted by the Saudi bombardment, they have since seized swathes of the country, bringing intense fighting to the port city of Aden.

The air campaign was launched by Saudi Arabia and a coalition of five Gulf monarchies plus Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.

The UN resolution puts Huthi leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi and ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh's eldest son, Ahmed, on a sanctions list.

They are now under a global travel ban and member states are required to freeze any assets.

The Huthis have allied with troops still loyal to Saleh, who was forced from power in 2012 following a year of nationwide protests.

Russia had said both sides should mark a pause in fighting for humanitarian reasons, but the final resolution did not include such a demand.

Instead, it instructed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intensify efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, without criticising Saudi action. — AFP

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