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UN Welcomes Halt in Yemen Fighting, Urges Peace Talks


FILE - A man loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh stands guard at Saleh's house destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, May 10, 2015.

The United Nations Security Council welcomed the start of a humanitarian cease-fire in Yemen and urged the warring sides to allow urgently needed food, medicine and fuel to reach civilians.

In a statement after the halt in fighting took effect Tuesday, the council also called for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to hold a conference to broker a political solution to Yemen's crisis.

The fighting there has killed more than 1,500 people with Houthi rebels clashing with government forces and a Saudi-led air coalition that has been conducting air strikes since March.

Coalition spokesman Ahmed al-Assiri said the Saudis are committed to the truce, but will continue monitoring the rebels through intelligence and reconnaissance flights. The Houthis also said they would respond if the cease-fire is broken.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos also urged on both sides to respect the truce.

"This pause will provide a respite for civilians and allow the delivery of food, medical supplies and other essential items to people who have been trapped in conflict zone," she said.

Amos further called for any aid shipments to be done through "existing U.N. and humanitarian organization channels" to make sure that the assistance "is not politicized."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said Wednesday that no countries participating in the Saudi-led coalition would be allowed to inspect an Iranian ship making its way to Yemen with humanitarian aid, state media reported.

The IRNA news agency cited Afkham saying the government hoped the aid would be delivered to people in Yemen with the help of the U.N.

On Tuesday, U.S. officials expressed concerns about the ship, with White House spokesman Josh Earnest saying Iran should go through the process the U.N. has set up and dock the ship in Djibouti where U.N. staff is processing relief to distribute in Yemen.

"Iran understands that they can't afford to play games with humanitarian assistance to people who are in dire need," Josh Earnest said. "The Iranians know as well as anyone that a political stunt to defy their regional rivals outside the U.N. system is provocative and risks a collapse of the U.N.-led humanitarian cease-fire."

Earnest also said the U.N. system ensures that the U.N.'s arms embargo against the Houthi rebels is enforced.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.