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UN Security Council calls for Yemen talks, as ceasefire takes effect

The UN Security Council has welcomed a five-day humanitarian ceasefire designed to allow food, fuel and other supplies into Yemen, but called for peace talks between the warring parties. The truce began onTuesday night.

The humanitarian truce began at 11 p.m. local time in Yemen (2000 UTC/GMT). It was called last week by Saudi Arabia to allow much-needed deliveries of humanitarian aid, after seven weeks of bombing in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of nations that began launching air strikes on Yemen in late March. Riyadh said this was to stop an advance by Shiite Houthi rebels, who had forced internationally-recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country.

The leadup to the ceasefire, however, was marked by dozens of coalition airstrikes and attacks by the Houthi rebels. It took effect as UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed landed in Sanaa, for talks on holding a peace conference with all sides.

The UN Security Council has weighed in on the proposed talks. In a statement on Tuesday night, it said the process should be led by Yemen, and called on all parties to attend "without preconditions."

As yet, there has been no time or place set for any negotiations. The UN's effort to organize the talks has been hampered by a dispute over the location. Saudi Arabia has insisted it should be held in the Gulf region, while others are supporting a neutral site.

The 15-member Council expressed concern for the "severe humanitarian consequences" of the ongoing violence.

"All parties will need to transparently and reliably suspend military operations" for the truce to hold, it said.

Saudi Arabia has warned that the success of the armistice depended on the behavior of Houthi rebels, which Riyadh claims are backed by Iran.

There were reports of continued fighting in some areas, while the rebels have been accused of reinforcing their positions after the ceasefire began.

Several UN and other international agencies were preparing a massive effort to deliver aid during the temporary ceasefire. On Tuesday, Iran's navy said it would direct warships to protect a cargo ship reportedly carrying emergency supplies to Yemen, to be distributed during the truce.

The move provoked a swift reaction in Washington, with US Army Colonel Steve Warren saying that the US was monitoring the Iranian vessel.

jr/msh (AP, AFP)

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