Houthi supporters chant slogans as they attend a demonstration against the United States over its decision to designate the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization, in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan 25, 2021. (HANI MOHAMMED / AP)
WASHINGTON－The administration of US President Joe Biden on Monday suspended some of the "terrorism sanctions" that former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo imposed on Yemen's Houthi movement in his waning days in office.
The US Treasury Department said it would exempt certain transactions involving the Houthis from sanctions resulting from Pompeo's designation of the group as a "foreign terrorist organization" on Jan 10.
The exemption will expire on Feb 26, according to a statement from the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announcing a general license for transactions that involve entities owned by the Iran-backed Houthis.
The decision by former US president Donald Trump's administration to impose the sanctions sparked confusion in aid agencies and warnings from the UN, as well as senior Republicans, that it could have a devastating impact on a nation facing the risk of famine
The sanctions Pompeo imposed had taken effect on Jan 19, just a day before Biden was inaugurated, and had been roundly criticized by the United Nations and relief organizations.
Critics said the sanctions would exacerbate what is already one of the world's worst humanitarian crises by barring aid deliveries to civilians in the war-torn nation.
The Treasury's license does not reverse Pompeo's designations and does not apply to specific members of the Houthi group who have been otherwise sanctioned.
The decision by former US president Donald Trump's administration sparked confusion in aid agencies and warnings from the UN, as well as senior Republicans, that it could have a devastating impact on a nation facing the risk of famine.
Several aid groups pleaded for Biden to immediately reverse the designation, with Oxfam America's Humanitarian Policy Lead Scott Paul saying: "Lives hang in the balance."
Yemen has been mired in civil war since late 2014 when the Houthi rebels seized control of much of the country's north and forced the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa.
On Monday, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the Arab League secretary-general, confirmed the bloc's full support for Yemen's Saudi-backed government.
The chief of the pan-Arab organization also voiced support for political efforts led by UN Envoy Martin Griffiths to reach a joint declaration which will be a start of building confidence and preparing for a political solution.
The civil war has killed more than 112,000 people, mostly civilians, displaced 3 million and pushed more than 20 million to the brink of starvation.
Most of Yemen's 30 million people rely on international aid to survive. The UN says 13.5 million Yemenis already face acute food insecurity, a figure that could rise to 16 million by June.
Also on Monday, tens of thousands of Yemenis marched in Sanaa, heeding a call by the Houthi movement to condemn the US for labeling it a terrorist group and backing the Saudi-led military coalition that is battling it.
The protesters filled a wide avenue in the Houthi-held capital, many holding banners that read: "America is the mother of terrorism".
The US and Saudi Arabia see the Houthi movement as an extension of Iranian influence. But the Houthis deny being puppets of Teheran and say they are fighting a corrupt system.
HONG KONG NEWS