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UN Chief Appoints New Yemen Envoy      04/25 14:07

   The U.N. chief appointed a new special envoy to Yemen as pressure grows to 
return to peace talks while fighting continues in the Arab world's poorest 
country.

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. chief appointed a new special envoy to Yemen 
as pressure grows to return to peace talks while fighting continues in the Arab 
world's poorest country.

   A statement Saturday says Ban Ki-moon has appointed Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed 
of Mauritania, who until now has led the U.N.'s Ebola mission.

   More than a thousand people have been killed in recent weeks after 
Iran-backed Shiite rebels swept through the country and a Saudi-led Sunni 
coalition began airstrikes to drive them back. The Western-backed president 
fled the country as the Houthi rebels closed in, and warnings have since grown 
of a humanitarian crisis as food and fuel supplies run short. Shiite rebels 
have pressed an offensive in the south and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition 
intensified its airstrikes less than two days after it said it was scaling back 
the campaign.

   Ahmed replaces Jamal Benomar, who had said he was stepping down. Benomar had 
faced sharp criticism from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries as his recent 
efforts to broker peace showed little success, though for a time Yemen had been 
held up as a model country for its post-Arab Spring political transition.

   Benomar's four years of efforts fell apart amid the Houthi rebel uprising 
and the airstrike response, which has led to fears of a kind of proxy war 
between Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies and Iran, a Shiite power that has 
supported the Houthis.

   Yemen's U.N. ambassador, Khaled Alyemany, told the AP earlier this month 
that Benomar had not paid enough attention to the government of President Abed 
Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Yemen's internationally recognized leader, and "had started 
to promote the Houthis, and we cannot accept that." At the time, Benomar did 
not comment.

   Alyemany called Amhed "a very good U.N. diplomat and expert."

   Ahmed was appointed by Ban in December as head of the U.N. Mission for Ebola 
Emergency Response, based in Ghana. His approach in responding to the crisis 
was "hands-on," said Tolbert Nyenswah, head of the Ebola response in Liberia, 
the country that has seen more deaths than any other during the outbreak.

   Nyenswah recalled a visit to Liberia's western Grand Cape Mount County, 
which borders Sierra Leone and continued to record Ebola cases well after the 
epidemic slowed in Monrovia.

   There, Ahmed used "plain and simple English" to explain to residents the 
need to avoid handling the dead bodies of Ebola victims s to mitigate the risk 
of infection, Nyenswah said.

   Ahmed won't be new to Yemen, where he previously served as a U.N. 
humanitarian coordinator.

   Another concern in Yemen is the growing presence of the Islamic State group. 
Analysts fear the group is taking advantage of Yemen's chaos to expand there.

   The head of U.N. operations in Yemen said in an interview with The 
Associated Press this week that a renewal of peace talks is "inevitable," and 
behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts could bring results in the coming weeks.

   The U.N. Security Council recently imposed an arms embargo on Houthi leaders 
and again demanded that they withdraw and stop the violence. The council also 
imposed an arms embargo on former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had stepped 
down in early 2012 as part of the U.N.-guided transition and now has aligned 
himself with the Houthis.

   The Gulf Cooperation Council --- which includes Yemen's neighbors Saudi 
Arabia and Oman as well as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates 
--- put together the plan for a political transition in Yemen that was only 
partially carried out.


(KA)


 
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