The U.N.'s outgoing special envoy to Yemen says the parties there had been "very close" to reaching a political agreement before the current violence and that the main sticking point had been who would lead the country.

Jamal Benomar also told reporters that a new targeted arms embargo could "inadvertently restrict the flow of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian assistance" to the Arab world's poorest country.

Benomar spoke just after his final briefing to the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors Monday.

The envoy says thousands of people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the chaos of an Iran-backed rebel uprising and Saudi-led airstrikes that seek to turn them back.

Benomar warns that the conflict is "becoming a confrontation with competing local and regional agendas."