Yemen blasts rebel 'deception' over pullout


In line with an accord in Sweden previous year, the Iran-backed Houthi movement began on Saturday a unilateral pullout from the three Red Sea ports used for grain, oil, commerce and aid.

Leading a coalition of its allies, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who had resigned amid popular discontent and fled to Riyadh, and to crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement, which has been significantly helping the Yemeni army against the coalition for the past four years.

Yemen's Houthi rebels said they launched a drone strike on Saudi Arabia's army in the Saudi border province of Asir on Sunday morning, Houthi-run TV al-Masirah reported. He also called for the removal of land mines laid by the Houthis.

The pullback is part of a truce agreement for Hodeida brokered by the United Nations between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in December in Sweden.

"Any unilateral spread not allowing the principle of control and joint verification of the implementation of the terms of the Sweden agreement is dodging and can not be accepted", he said.

The port of Hodeida is the entry point for 70 percent of the humanitarian aid and imports to Yemen, where the four-year civil war has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Fighting has choked off much of the aid entering the ports, and with the coming redeployment the United Nations hopes the flow of food and other goods entering Yemen will increase, helping alleviate the humanitarian crisis. Up until now over 60,000 people have died in the conflict as well as from malnutrition, preventable diseases and epidemics, mainly because of a lack of medical supplies and food.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt welcomed the Houthi pullout from the ports.

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Aid organisation the International Rescue Committee said the Houthi move was a positive step, but a wider peace deal was needed to avert violence elsewhere. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with the media.

"The U.N. and its special envoy are sponsoring talks in discuss the issue of salaries and to make the economic situation neutral", Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthis' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said in a tweet.

"We will not accept this theatrical act and we will remain the main party in any agreement", al-Taher said.

The U.N. mission will monitor the redeployment, a first step towards concluding the peace agreement, the U.N. statement said, adding that it must be followed by "the committed, transparent and sustained actions of the parties to fully deliver on their obligations".

The British ambassador to Yemen reacted sharply to the Yemeni government's scepticism about Houthi withdrawal.

"He assured the head of the government team that the withdrawal process would be according to the latest version of the agreement signed by all of the parties". Each side has accused the other of violating the Hodeida cease-fire, and fighting has continued in other parts of the country. A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition didn't immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. It also said that this would enhance United Nations checks on cargoes.