The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that demands that Shiite rebels immediately relinquish control of Yemen's government in a crisis that has pushed the Arab world's poorest country near collapse.
The United States and ten other countries co-sponsored the resolution that had been originally drafted by Jordan and the United Kingdom.
Some Sunni Arab nations, most notably the Gulf Cooperation council - -Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman -- countries believe the resolution is too weak because it does not fall under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which permits applying economic sanctions and, if approved, military force, to achieve the intended goals.
The resolution demands that the Houthi rebels "immediately and unconditionally" withdraw forces from government institutions.
The Houthis' takeover has raised alarms that the world's most dangerous branch of Al Qaeda, based in Yemen, would use the chaos to its advantage. The Houthis and the militant Sunnis of the Al Qaeda branch are bitter rivals.
"It was clear the world was waiting for a powerful message from the U.N. Security Council," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the council. "The Houthis must take responsibility for their actions and stop using violence and coercion as political tools."
Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi called the resolution "a milestone" and said, "We will be following up with the council on a daily basis."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council on Thursday that Yemen was "collapsing before our eyes." The United States and several other countries closed their embassies in Yemen last week. The Houthis are generally hostile to U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, placing in jeopardy U.S. counter-terrorism operations that have included using drone aircraft to strike suspected al-Qaida sites in Yemen.
U.N.-led talks in Sanaa have made little ground, with envoy Jamal Benomar telling the Security Council on Thursday that Yemen is at a crossroads between "civil war and disintegration." He said the political uncertainty has pressured the local currency, the riyal, near the possibility of collapse.
"The people of Yemen deserve a clear path back to the political transition process and a legitimate government," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Sunday.
The resolution demands that all parties in Yemen "cease all armed hostilities against the people and the legitimate authorities of Yemen and relinquish the arms seized from Yemen's military and security institutions." It also calls on U.N. member states to "refrain from external interference which seeks to foment conflict and instability."
Yemeni officials say Saudi Arabia, a staunch U.S. ally, was sending arms and funds to tribesmen in Yemen's Marib province to bolster them against the rebels. Saudi Arabia has not commented about the claims.
The Egyptians and Saudis are coordinating a joint military response to deal with any eventuality in Yemen, including the disruption of shipping through the corridor that runs past Yemen to Egypt's Suez Canal, according to Egyptian security officials. The officials in both Yemen and Egypt spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Reporting from Fox News' Jonathan Wachtel and the Associated Press contributed to this report