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UN Chief: Yemen on Brink of Collapse

  • Margaret Besheer

Thousands protest against Houthis in Sana'a, Yemen, Feb. 11, 2015. (Photo: Z. al-Alyaa for VOA)

Thousands protest against Houthis in Sana'a, Yemen, Feb. 11, 2015. (Photo: Z. al-Alyaa for VOA)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday said Yemen is on the brink of collapse as peace talks there are faltering.

Yemen is slipping further into chaos as the Houthis, an Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militia from the north, consolidate their grip on power after seizing the capital in September and sidelining the central government.

The fighters have been advancing into southern territories, confronting Sunni Muslim tribesmen, other groups and the local branch of al-Qaida.

Worsening security conditions recently prompted the United States, Britain and France to close embassies there.

“Let me be clear: Yemen is collapsing before our eyes," said Ban, who recently returned from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for meetings on Yemen's rapidly developing crisis. "We cannot stand by and watch.”

Ban also said helping the country quickly re-establish a legitimate government is critical. Faced with political, security and humanitarian challenges, he warned, conditions will deteriorate unless the international community can send a strong signal that the country’s political transition must not be undermined.

For the past three years, the U.N.'s special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, had been helping to guide the country through that transition. On Wednesday he described an imminent risk of civil war and accused all sides of contributing to the political and economic turmoil.

“Today, Yemen is at a crossroad," Benomar told the council on Thursday via video link from Sana’a. "Either the country will descend into civil war and disintegration or the country will find a way to put the transition back on track.”

Benomar also warned that the instability is creating conditions conducive to the re-emergence of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and the possibility of secession in the south.

Benomar said the country could fall into an economic crisis if no political deal is reached soon, as the possibility of the local currency collapsing is real.

The U.N. plans to ask for nearly $750 million for humanitarian needs this year, as more than 60 percent of the population requires assistance.

Portions of this report are from Reuters.

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