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UN chief rejects Yemen president's accusation of bias

By AFP - May 27,2019 - Last updated at May 27,2019

Mourners carry coffins during the funeral of Yemenis reportedly killed in a coalition air strike a week ago, through the streets of the capital Sanaa, on Friday (AFP photo)

DUBAI — UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has assured Yemen’s leader that the world body will remain impartial in efforts to resolve the country’s conflict, rejecting accusations that its envoy was siding with rebels.

The pledge came in a letter from Guterres to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who had accused the UN special envoy to Yemen of bias.

“I would like to assure you that every effort will be made to maintain the impartial stance that is expected of the United Nations,” while implementing a ceasefire agreement, Guterres said in the letter seen by AFP on Sunday.

In his own letter addressed to Guterres, Hadi accused envoy Martin Griffiths of “providing the Houthi militia with guarantees to stay in Hodeidah and its ports under the umbrella of the UN”.

“I can no longer accept these offences by your special envoy which threaten chances to find a [lasting] solution,” Hadi said.

Hodeidah is the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s imports and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions of people.

Earlier this month, the United Nations supervised the rebels’ handover of the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa to a “coast guard”, but the government said they were in fact Houthi forces in different uniforms.

The pullback is in line with a ceasefire deal for Hodeidah reached in Stockholm in December.

Guterres said that he and Griffiths were prepared “to discuss the legitimate concerns of the government of Yemen referenced in your letter, which we take very seriously.”

He also gave an assurance that the United Nations had no plans to set up an international administration in Hodeida.

The UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Lise Grande, on Sunday condemned a deadly strike on a petrol station east of the city of Taez.

The attack on Friday killed 12 civilians, seven of them children, she said, updating an earlier death toll.

“Innocent lives continue to be lost in Yemen because of this conflict,” she said in a statement, without identifying the assailants.

Government forces — backed by the coalition — and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have been locked in a four-year war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine. 

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

The conflict has triggered what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with more than two-thirds of the population in need of aid.

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