‘Houthis appear to reject safety assurances for UN inspection team’

201

Yemen’s Houthi militia have appeared to reject pleas to guarantee the safety of a UN team to inspect the rusting, abandoned tanker Safer, which is threatening to leak 1.1 million barrels of oil, an official said.

Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said on Wednesday from the rebels is disappointing because “it would seem to confirm that Ansar Allah is not ready to provide the assurances the UN needs to deploy a UN mission to the Safer tanker”, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Houthis are also known as Ansar Allah.

The world body seeks to inspect the 362-meter tanker, formerly known as Esso Japan, serving as a floating storage tank, off Hodeidah, on Yemen’s West Coast.

The team would assess the ship’s condition and carry out emergency repairs to prevent leaking of its cargo.

Dujarric said the Houthis’ focus in negotiations appears to be thorough maintenance of the 45-year old vessel.

“We have explained many times that this cannot be undertaken without an impartial assessment in hand,” he told reporters during a regular briefing.

“The tanker is a dangerous site, and we need to understand exactly what we’re dealing with before undertaking any major works.

“We’ve had very intensive discussions on this with Ansar Allah over the last 10 days trying to bridge the gaps in objectives and understandings,” the spokesman added.

Member states of the UN have also stepped in to speak directly with the rebels in control of the tanker in hopes of reaching an agreement, he said, adding that while it was helpful, “we’re not there yet, which is very unfortunate”.

An oil spill would have a devastating effect on the Red Sea region, said Dujarric.

The issues related to the tanker will be discussed by the Security Council on Thursday.

–IANS

ksk/