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UN Envoy Criticizes Yemeni Rebels’ Announcement of New Government

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold their weapons during a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters into battlefronts in several Yemeni cities, in Sana'a, Yemen, Nov. 24, 2016.

The United Nations envoy to Yemen is strongly criticizing the Houthi rebels for forming a new government on their own, calling it a setback to peace efforts.

"The announcement ... represents a new and concerning obstacle to the peace process and does not serve the interests of the people of Yemen in these difficult times," Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said Tuesday in a statement from Geneva.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed said there is still time to pull Yemen "back from the brink" if all parties agree to stop airstrikes and halt fighting on the ground in favor of diplomacy.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels control the capital, Sana'a, along with other large parts of the desperately poor country.

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi announced Monday the group was putting together a new "national salvation" government to show "the enormous importance of reinforcing our domestic position and serving the people despite the difficult economic situation."

The rebels took over the capital in 2014, driving the internationally recognized government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to exile in Saudi Arabia before Hadi returned to the port city of Aden.

Saudi-led airstrikes against the rebels have killed numerous civilians and obliterated entire neighborhoods. U.N-sponsored peace talks have made little progress.

U.N. relief officials said as many as 80 percent of Yemen's civilian population are in immediate need of food and medicine.