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UN Says Withdrawal Of Iranian-Backed Houthi Rebels From Yemeni Ports Going As Planned

Yemeni government forces patrol as smoke billows from an alleged Huthi position during battles between Yemeni government forces and Huthi rebels in the port city of Hodeidah in September 2018.

The United Nations says the first day of the withdrawal from western Yemen of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels from two of the three Red Sea port facilities they've vowed to evacuate under a peace deal has gone according to plan.

The UN has been monitoring the withdrawal from the Red Sea port facilities of Saleef and Ras Isa, which the rebels have held since 2014. The UN monitors plan to report to the Security Council about the situation on May 15.

"All three ports were monitored simultaneously by United Nations teams as the military forces left the ports and the coast guard took over responsibility for security," a UN statement on May 12 said.

The UN statement comes a day after the Yemeni government accused the rebels of "staging a new ploy" by faking the withdrawal.

Provincial Governor Al-Hasan Taher told AFP the rebels were handing the ports "to themselves without any monitoring by the United Nations and the government side."

The UN says the Houthi rebels announced late on May 10 that they would unilaterally redeploy their forces out of three Red Sea port facilities over four days beginning on May 11 -- potentially opening the way for the delivery of humanitarian aid needed to prevent a famine that threatens millions of people.

Under the redeployment pledge, Houthi militants said they also would move out of Yemen's main Red Sea port of Hodeidah by the end of the day on May 14.

Under the peace agreement, signed in Stockholm in December, pro-government forces in Yemen also are expected to leave positions around the outskirts of Hodeidah during the initial redeployment before a second phase in which both sides withdraw their troops further.

But the UN has not specifically mentioned any reciprocal redeployment by the pro-government forces, which have the support of a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The coalition alleges that the Houthis have been using Hodeidah as a landing point to smuggle weapons supplied by Iran. The Houthis deny those charges.

The UN committee's chairman, Lieutenant General Michael Lollesgaard of Denmark, has said the Houthi redeployment must be followed by "the committed, transparent, and sustained actions of the parties to fully deliver on their obligations."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP