June 21 (UPI) -- The United Nations World Food Program said Thursday it's partially suspended food assistance operations in Yemen after it failed to reach an agreement with the Houthi rebel leadership on distribution.
Program officials complained that some wanted to use its food program for profit and steer rations away from people most in need. They said the suspension would only affect the capital, Sanaa, which has been in control of the rebels since 2015 during its Yemen's long-running civil war.
The program said it wanted to begin a biometric registration system that would prevent food from being diverted from needy Yemeni families, but those negotiations recently broke down.
"WFP's priority remains to feed the hungriest children, women, and men of Yemen," the program said in a statement. "The integrity of our operation is under threat and our accountability to those we help has been undermined. WFP has repeatedly appealed to the Sanaa-based authorities to grant us the space and freedom to operate according to the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and operational independence."
The program said while suspending its food operations will affect 850,000 in Sanaa, it will continue its nutrition programs for malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers.
"Let me be crystal clear, children are dying right now because of this," David Beasley, director of the food program, told the U.N. Security Council Monday, complaining the Houthis have not prevented food from being stolen for the past 18 months. "There are those who stand to make a profit and they will do everything to obstruct and delay."
In other Yemen action, a London court Thursday banned British arms sales to Saudi Arabia in hopes of bringing the Yemen civil war to a close. Activists had complained that Britain had sold some $6 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia while at least 100,000 have died in the conflict.