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RIMBO, Sweden – The Latest on Yemen developments as warring sides gather for U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Sweden (all times local):
The U.N. food agency says it's planning to rapidly scale up food distribution to help another 4 million people in Yemen over the next two months, more than a 50-percent increase in the number reached now — if access can be maintained in the poor, war-stricken country.
World Food Program's spokesman Herve Verhoosel says the "ambitious undertaking" finalizes plans in the works in recent months to reach 12 million people with food and nutritional supplements through January, from between 7-8 million now.
The target population includes some 3 million women and children who need special support to prevent malnutrition. Verhoosel said the rollout will require "safe, immediate and unimpeded access for food and other vital supplies."
WFP's announcement on Thursday comes as Yemen's warring parties are to hold U.N.-mediated talks in Sweden.
Yemen's warring sides are gathering in Sweden for U.N.-sponsored talks aimed at halting the Arab country's catastrophic three-year war.
A castle in the Swedish town of Rimbo, north of Stockholm, has been chosen as the venue for the talks, expected to start on Thursday.
However, U.N. officials say they don't expect rapid progress toward a political settlement but hope for at least minor steps that would help to address Yemen's worsening humanitarian crisis.
Both the internationally-recognized government, which is backed by a U.S.-sponsored and Saudi-led coalition, and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels say they are striving for peace. A Houthi delegation arrived in Stockholm late Tuesday, accompanied by U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths. The government delegation and the head of the rebel delegation headed to Sweden on Wednesday.