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Yemen vice president calls for an end to support of Shiite rebels

Yemen's newly appointed Vice President Khaled Bahah has urged renegade army units to end their support for Shiite rebels. The call comes after his government was exiled more than two weeks ago.

During a speech on Thursday in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where he is currently exiled with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Khaled Bahah called on all troops and security forces personnel "to accept the command of the legitimate government and protect the country."

Troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have recently allied with the Shiite Houthi rebels who are widely thought to be supported by Shiite Iran. Sunni Saudi Arabia, however, supports President Hadi, who fled there once Houthi forces were approaching his southern Yemen stronghold of Aden.

'Urgent humanitarian needs'

Vice President Bahah, who also serves as Yemen's prime minister, appealed on Thursday for emergency aid for the conflict-stricken regions, adding that the government's top priority was to address the "urgent humanitarian needs."

"The Yemeni people are suffering from a difficult humanitarian situation and a shortage in food and medicine as well as ... electricity, water and fuel."

This required "an emergency international and regional intervention to provide such needs... before the situation develops into a humanitarian catastrophe," Bahah said.

Unnecessary ground forces

Until now, coalition member states have not ruled out sending ground forces to Yemen, but Bahah said on Thursday that he hoped such measures would not be necessary.

"We are still hoping that there will not be a ground campaign" to avoid a higher casualty toll, Bahah said. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 736 people died in the conflict up to April 12 and more than 2,700 have been wounded.

The Yemeni vice president also hailed Russia on Thursday for not blocking a UN Security Council resolution earlier this week, which

imposed an arms embargo and sanctions

on the Shiite Houthi rebels. Iran-allied Moscow abstained from voting on Tuesday, allowing the other 14 Council members to pass the resolution.

Renewed fighting

According to reports from residents, heavy combat between an army brigade and tribesmen, and the Shiite Houthi militia and allied army units broke out on Thursday in and around the central Yemeni city of Taiz.

A day earlier, the

UN special envoy to Yemen

, Jamal Benomar, resigned from his post following growing frustration from the Gulf Arab nations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is reportedly considering replacing Benomar with a Mauritian diplomat, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

ksb/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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