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UN Security Council backs Yemen's president as violence escalates

UN Special Adviser on Yemen to the United

UN Special Adviser on Yemen to the United Nations Jamal Benomar, on the video screen, addresses the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the situation in Yemen at the UN headquarters in New York, March 22, 2015. Credit: EPA / Jason Szenes

The UN Security Council in an emergency meeting Sunday unanimously adopted a presidential statement condemning escalating violence in Yemen, where rebels seized a key city as the nation tilted toward civil war.

The statement supporting Yemen's president, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi -- who fled south to the city of Aden as security dissolved in the war-torn nation -- came amid fresh violence. Sunday, rebel Houthi forces took over Taiz, Yemen's third-largest city, and its airport about 100 miles north of Aden, where Hadi has taken refuge.

Hours later, Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, a Shia rebel Houthi leader, said he was training his forces on Aden, according to The Associated Press.

"The decision [to mobilize] aims to confront the criminal forces, al-Qaida, and its partners and sisters, and all those who want to take cover in regions or using political pretexts," al-Houthi said, according to the news service. It also said he accused Hadi, whom he called a "puppet of regional and international powers including the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar," of partnering with militant groups to destabilize Yemen.

The presidential statement mentioned most of the recent skirmishes and urged all parties to negotiate peace through the UN special envoy and conflict mediator Jamal Benomar, who addressed the Security Council via satellite feed.

"There is a prevailing sense amongst Yemenis that the situation is on a rapid downward spiral," said Benomar, calling for a "power-sharing deal" that includes Houthis and Hadi loyalists.

On Friday, suicide bombings at two mosques in Sanaa, the country's capital, killed at least 126 people, according to a UN negotiator of the conflict. On Thursday, rebels attacked Aden International Airport, leaving 13 dead.

"The Security Council supports the legitimacy of the president of Yemen," read the presidential statement issued during the 3 p.m. meeting Sunday at UN headquarters in Manhattan, "and calls upon all parties and member states to refrain from taking any actions that undermine the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen."

The statement urged all parties to observe the Security Council resolutions concerning the tensions in Yemen, including one adopted last month.

"Today, the Security Council spoke with one voice, reaffirming its support for President Hadi as Yemen's legitimate president, deploring the Houthis' failure to withdraw their forces from government institutions, and reiterating the Security Council's condemnation of Houthi unilateral actions that undermine the political transition process," said Samantha Power, U.S. envoy to the UN.

Yemen is at a crossroads as extremist groups, including al-Qaida and Islamic State, take root, analysts have said. In September, Houthi rebels seized the capital and placed Hadi under house arrest, but he fled.

With AP


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