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UN voices 'concern' over key Yemen port after military claim

Saudi-led coalition accuses Iran-backed Houthis of militarising ports

By AFP - Jan 12,2022 - Last updated at Jan 12,2022

A grab from an AFPTV video shows a pro-government fighter aiming his weapon during fighting on Monday as forces in Yemen backed by a Saudi-led military coalition said they had seized control of the northern oil province of Shabwa from Iran-backed Houthi rebels (AFP photo)

DUBAI — The UN mission in Yemen's rebel-held port of Hodeida expressed "great concern" on Tuesday over claims it was being used for military purposes and demanded access for an inspection.

The United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeida Agreement said the port was vital for the impoverished country, where a seven-year war has pushed millions to the brink of famine.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting alongside government forces accused the Iran-backed Houthi rebels of militarising the Red Sea ports and threatened to attack them after the insurgents seized a United Arab Emirates-flagged ship last week.

"UNMHA reminds the parties that Hodeida ports are a crucial lifeline for millions of Yemeni people," it said in a statement.

The coalition says the Rwabee was carrying medical supplies but the Houthis insist it was a military ship.

The hijacking on January 3 raised fears that the conflict could spill over into the Red Sea, a vital route for Gulf oil and cargo shipments.

It could also have severe consequences for Yemen, which the UN says is facing the world's worst humanitarian crisis, if it draws attacks on Hodeida.

"UNMHA has requested as part of its mandate to undertake an inspection," the statement said, adding that protecting the ports was "in the interest of the Yemeni people".

The UN mission is aimed at preserving the often ignored Hodeida Agreement, a ceasefire for the port agreed at Yemen's last peace talks in Sweden in 2018.

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