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UN Sanctions Yemen Rebels

Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, hold up their weapons as they attend a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, April 10, 2015.

Yemen’s U.N. ambassador urged Houthi rebels to “return the kidnapped state” to the legitimate government, as the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo against the rebels and sanctioned their leaders.

The 15-nation U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Tuesday prohibiting the sale or transfer of arms to Houthi rebels and demanding that they immediately cease armed violence and return to the negotiating table. Russia, which expressed reservations about the resolution, abstained from the vote, allowing the measure to be adopted.

Yemen’s ambassador, Khaled Hussein Alyemany, told reporters that the move sends a very clear message to the Houthis that they should abide by international law.

“They should stop their coup and they should return the kidnapped state to the legitimate government of Yemen, otherwise the international community will keep on putting more pressure on them and isolating them in order to get that resolution applied," Alyemany said.

The Security Council has repeatedly underscored that President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is the legitimate leader of Yemen.

The Yemeni envoy also struck out at Iran, which Yemen accused of arming and supporting the Shi'ite rebels.

“We refuse the influence of Tehran in our domestic affairs," he said.

In March, at the request of President Hadi, Saudi Arabia and several Gulf Arab countries began an air campaign against the Houthis. Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said the council’s resolution is a “very clear endorsement” of that military operation.

Asked if the Arab coalition would expand its air campaign to include a ground offensive if the Houthis do not heed the Security Council’s demands, Ambassador Mouallimi said that is up to military leaders to decide, and indicated that Operation Decisive Storm would continue.

“The entire military operation today is the product of the non-compliance of the Houthis, so if they are not complying, they will continue to face more of the same," Mouallimi said.

Council members expressed deep concern at the worsening humanitarian situation and the impact the armed conflict is having on civilians. Hundreds have been killed since the Saudi-led airstrikes began on March 26, and an already poverty-stricken country has quickly spiraled into a deep humanitarian crisis. The resolution calls for humanitarian pauses so that aid can be delivered and civilians evacuated.

The council also added Abdulmalik al-Houthi, a leader of the group, and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and a Houthi supporter, to an international sanctions list. They will face asset freezes and a travel ban.

Council members stressed there is no military solution to the crisis, and urged parties to immediately return to the negotiating table.