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Blinken to review Houthi rebels terrorism designation over aid concerns

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Wednesday that they are concerned about humanitarian aid getting to those who need it in Yemen. Pool Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Wednesday that they are concerned about humanitarian aid getting to those who need it in Yemen. Pool Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Wednesday that the Biden administration is taking " a very urgent and close look" at the Trump administration's designation of Iran-backed Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization in order to keep humanitarian aid flowing into Yemen.

"It's vitally important, even in the midst of this crisis, that we do everything we can to get humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen who are in desperate need," he told reporters during his first press availably since being sworn in as secretary of state. "And what we want to make sure is that any steps we are taking do not get in the way of proving that assistance."

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The war in Yemen between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemen government that erupted in 2014 has devolved Yemen into the world's "worst humanitarian crisis," the United Nations has said, as it has resulted in some 24 million of its nearly 30 million population requiring some form of humanitarian need, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In his final day in office, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state under President Donald Trump, last week designated Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization.

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Pompeo had announced his intention to blacklist the Houthi group earlier in January, causing U.N. spokesman Stephan Dujarric to warn that the designation could have a negative impact on the import of food and other essential items.

He also warned the political process in the country also risks further destabilization because of the designation.

Houthis control territory where some 80% of the Yemen population live, Blinken said, and the State Department wants to ensure any measures implemented, including the terrorist designation, don't make it more difficult to provide humanitarian aid to those who need it.

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"So we're taking a very urgent and very close look at it," he said. "We want to make sure that not only American aid groups are able to do what they can to provide assistance, but so are aid groups around the world that are providing the bulk of that assistance and to make sure that nothing we are doing interferes with that."

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