(Corrects airport in 14th para where ICRC flying supplies to
Sanaa not Aden)
* Yemeni prime minister says Houthis smuggling arms via
Hodeidah Says govt has proposed UN port oversight to UN chief
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, April 26 The Yemeni government has
proposed to the United Nations that it monitors the rebel-held
port of Hodeidah to ensure that no arms are smuggled through it,
the prime minister said on Wednesday.
A Saudi-led military coalition backing the
internationally-recognised government in its war against the
Houthi rebels has been preparing an assault on Hodeidah.
U.N. officials and a Russian deputy foreign minister on
Tuesday warned against any attack on the Red Sea port, the aid
lifeline for a country where millions of people are in desperate
need of food to avert famine.
The alliance maintains a near-blockade of Yemen's ports,
including Hodeidah, where most cranes have been destroyed by
coalition air strikes.
Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr repeated allegations
that the Iran-aligned Houthis are smuggling weapons into Yemen
through Hodeidah and said his government has proposed that the
United Nations supervise the port to head off a possible attack.
He told Reuters in Geneva: "This port has been developed for
receiving weapons for the militias. We are taking decisions to
finalise what is going on. We don't prefer using force there.
"So it's us who proposed to the United Nations to operate
the port and to impose monitoring on the port."
The government had discussed this with U.N. Secretary
General Antonio Guterres at a conferemce of aid donors held to
address the humanitarian crisis brought on by the war.
"But we didn't receive a clear answer on this matter," he
A U.N. spokeswoman in Geneva had no immediate information.
The United Nations says two-thirds of Yemen's 26 million
people need assistance to avert famine.
The world body announced pledges of $1.1 billion towards its
$2.1 billion humanitarian appeal for Yemen this year after the
conference held on Tuesday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which
stopped using Hodeidah port in February, is bringing supplies by
sea from Oman to Aden and "testing" land routes from Oman, ICRC
regional director Robert Mardini told Reuters on Wednesday.
It has coalition permission to fly supplies into Sanaa
airport, closed to commercial flights, he said. The government
is based in Aden while the Houthis hold the capital Sanaa.
The ICRC is supporting Al-Mansoura hospital in Aden, which
has treated 5,000 critically wounded people so far this year,
and is sending a surgical team to expand capacity, Mardini said.
Bin Daghr said the Houthis were holding nearly 3,000
detainees, including journalists and activists, and that the
government wanted independent monitoring of their conditions.
The ICRC is seeking access from both sides to allow it to
visit detainees held in connection with the conflict.
"We are getting many requests from families," Mardini said.
"We have some worrying reports."
But both sides have demanded that the other side first allow
ICRC to see its detainees, he said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)