Security Council

UN approves arms embargo against Yemen rebel leaders

April 13, 2015: Yemeni expatriates and Iranians chant slogans during a protest against the Saudi-led coalition strikes on Yemen, in front of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

April 13, 2015: Yemeni expatriates and Iranians chant slogans during a protest against the Saudi-led coalition strikes on Yemen, in front of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The United Nations Security Council  voted Tuesday on a draft resolution that will impose an arms embargo on leaders of Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels and their key supporters, ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, has been pushed to the brink of collapse by ground fighting and Saudi-led airstrikes in support of current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia. Observers say the fighting in the strategic Mideast nation is taking on the appearance of a proxy war between Iran, the Shiite powerhouse backing the Houthis, and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.

The arms embargo was approved in a 14-0 vote, with Russia abstaining. Moscow had insisted on an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict.

Earlier, the Russian Mission to the U.N. had told Fox News, "we cannot comment on how our ambassador will vote," signaling that Moscow may choose to veto the resolution. Russia had delayed a vote for weeks as it tried to force amendments to the text.

Diplomats told the Associated Press that Russia tried but failed to include humanitarian pauses in the final draft, which simply "urges all parties to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance" and to facilitate the evacuation of foreigners.

The resolution imposes the weapons embargo on five men: Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, second-in-command Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, military commander Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi, Saleh and his eldest son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh. The former president and his son are key supporters of the Houthi group.

The council called on all countries, especially Yemen's neighbors, to inspect cargo headed to Yemen if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe it contains weapons.

In addition, the council imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on the Houthi leader and Saleh's son. The same sanctions had already been imposed on the other three men last November.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the Houthis ignored a council resolution in February that had warned of further measures if they failed to cease their aggression.

Lyall Grant stressed that a political solution is the only solution and the best way to counter the threat from terrorist groups in Yemen such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by the U.S. to be the world's most dangerous branch of the terror network.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the new sanctions show "that this council will take action against those who continue to undermine efforts toward reconciliation."

The resolution demands that all Yemeni parties, especially the Houthis, end violence and return swiftly to U.N.-led peace talks aimed at a political transition. It makes no mention of the Saudi-led airstrikes.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin complained that the resolution did not require all sides to the conflict "to swiftly halt fire." And he said a comprehensive arms embargo is essential, stressing that "Yemen is awash in weapons."

Churkin made it clear in his remarks that the arms embargo should also be applied to Hadi's government and that the Saudi-led air strikes on the country must stop.

Several diplomats questioned whether the arms embargo would have any impact on the conflict. Iran has reportedly been the main supplier of weapons to the Houthis, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The council asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intensify efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate foreigners, including establishing "humanitarian pauses" in coordination with the government of Yemen. It called on all parties to facilitate the aid delivery and evacuation of foreigners.

The council threatened further sanctions if any Yemeni party fails to implement the provisions of the resolution.

The Jordanians decided to put the resolution to a vote as Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on Iran, which backs the Houthis, to use its influence to help bring the rebels to the negotiating table. Observers say the fighting in Yemen has increasingly taken on the appearance of a proxy war between regional rivals Iran, the Shiite powerhouse, and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.

Fox News' Jonathan Wachtel and the Associated Press contributed to this report.