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UK pushes draft UN resolution condemning Iran for weapons smuggling in Yemen

Draft UN Security Council text accuses Iran of violating 2015 arms embargo on Yemen by transfering ballistic missiles to rebels
Houthis ride a military vehicle during a gathering in the capital Sanaa to mobilise more fighters to battle pro-government forces in several Yemeni cities (AFP)

The UK has drafted a UN Security Council resolution condemning Iran for violating the arms embargo on Yemen and calling for measures to address this violation, according to the text obtained by AFP on Monday.

The proposed resolution is in response to a report by a UN panel of experts which found that missiles fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels at Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.

The Security Council is expected to vote on the draft later this month, but it remains unclear whether Russia would back any move that punishes Iran. 

The text "condemns" Iran for violating the 2015 arms embargo on Yemen by "failing to take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer" of short-range ballistic missiles, drones and other military equipment to the Houthis.

The draft resolution backed by the United States and France specifies that "these violations ... require a further response from the council; and further decides to take additional measures to address these violations".

I call on Iran to cease activity which risks escalating the conflict and to support a political solution to the conflict in Yemen

- Boris Johnson, UK Foreign Secretary

While the text presented to the council on Friday does not provide details on those measures, it does specify that "any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen" is a criteria for sanctions. 

The report by the UN experts bolstered US and Saudi claims that Iran was arming the Houthis, despite Tehran's strong denials.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was "deeply concerned by the findings of the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen that missiles and related military equipment of Iranian origin were introduced into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo."

"I call on Iran to cease activity which risks escalating the conflict and to support a political solution to the conflict in Yemen," he said in a statement.

"I also call on all parties to the conflict to abide fully by applicable international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law."

Civilian deaths

The report attributed a number of civilian deaths to the Saudi-led coalition targeting the Houthis, which is supported by the UK.

"During the reporting period, the Panel investigated 10 air strikes 175 that led to at least 157 fatalities and 135 injuries, including at least 85 children," said the report.

"The strikes also destroyed five residential buildings, two civilian vessels, a market, a motel and a Government of Yemen forces location."

While the report found that Tehran had violated the 2015 embargo by failing to block the shipments of equipment made in Iran, the experts said they were unable to identify the supplier.

Russia's Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has raised questions about the experts' findings, which AFP first reported in January when the document was confidentially sent to the council. 

Russia has the power to block sanctions by resorting to its veto as one of the five permanent Security Council members, along with the UK, China, France and the United States.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres notified the Security Council of his intention to appoint former British diplomat Martin Griffiths as his new envoy charged with trying to broker peace in Yemen, diplomats said.

The appointment will be approved by the council on Thursday evening if none of the 15-member raise any objections. Typically, the secretary-general has already informally consulted with council members before sending official notification.

Griffiths, currently executive director of the European Institute of Peace, will replace Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who the United Nations said would step down after three years in the job when his current contract finishes this month.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. 

Militant groups, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, have flourished in the chaos of the war, regularly launching attacks on government and military targets.

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