UN slaps arms embargo on Yemen rebels controlling most of country

UN slaps arms embargo on Yemen rebels controlling most of country
A Saudi artillery unit fires shells towards Houthi positions from the Saudi border with Yemen April 13, 2015.

ADEN - The UN Security Council on Tuesday imposed an arms embargo targeting the Iran-allied Houthi rebels who now control most of Yemen as battles in the south of the country intensified.

Egypt said it and Saudi Arabia had discussed holding a "major military manoeuvre" in Saudi Arabia with other Gulf states, following talks on the progress of the three-week-old Saudi-led campaign of air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen.

The statement from the Egyptian presidency appeared to be a sign that members of the Sunni Arab coalition attacking the Houthis may carry through on threats to eventually follow their air campaign with a ground intervention or at least have a show of force next door.

Arab states have been bombing the Houthis in support of militias resisting an advance by the group and army units loyal to ousted former president Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The conflict, though rooted in local rivalries, has become a proxy battlefield for Sunni-ruled Saudi and mainly Shi'ite Iran, the main regional powers.

The UN resolution also demanded the Houthis stop fighting and withdraw from areas they have seized, including the capital Sanaa.

On the ground, southern militiamen claimed gains against the Houthis on several battlefronts across southern Yemen, including districts of the port city of Aden, the last stronghold of loyalists to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Iran meanwhile prepared to submit a four-point peace plan for Yemen to the United Nations on Wednesday, state media said.

Tehran's proposal includes a call for an end to Saudi-led air strikes against the Houthis and is likely to anger Riyadh, which accuses Iran of meddling in the affairs of its southern neighbour.

The Security Council on Tuesday imposed a global asset freeze and travel ban on Ahmed Saleh, the former head of Yemen's Republican Guard, and on Abdulmalik al-Houthi, a Houthi leader.

Saleh's father, former president Saleh, and two other senior Houthi leaders, Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, had been blacklisted by the Security Council in November.

The Security Council also expressed concern at what it called "destabilizing actions" taken by former President Saleh, including supporting the Houthis.

The elder Saleh, who was forced to step down in 2012, is widely seen as having a behind-the scenes role in the conflict in league with the Houthis.

The resolution imposed an arms embargo on the five men and "those acting on their behalf or at their direction in Yemen" - effectively the Houthis and soldiers loyal to Saleh who are fighting alongside the Houthis.

A statement from the Houthi leadership condemned the resolution, which it said supported "aggression".

The council voted 14 in favour, while Russia abstained, saying some of its proposals for the resolution drafted by council member Jordan and Gulf Arab states were not included.

"The co-sponsors refused to include the requirements insisted upon by Russia addressed to all sides to the conflict to swiftly halt fire and to begin peace talks," Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote.

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