Biden State pick to review Yemen Huthi terrorist label 'immediately'

Washington (AFP) –


President-elect Joe Biden's pick to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said Tuesday he would quickly revisit the outgoing administration's designation of Yemen's Huthi rebels as terrorists, fearing it could make the humanitarian crisis there far worse.

"We would propose to review that immediately to make sure that what we're doing is not impeding the provision of humanitarian assistance," Blinken said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump's administration announced the last-ditch move on January 11, nine days before Biden takes over on Wednesday.

The United Nations and aid groups warned it risks worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis.

The Iran-backed Huthis are facing a bloody offensive led by US ally Saudi Arabia, with millions in the country depending on aid to survive.

The Huthis, who control much of the north of the war-ravaged country, warned Tuesday they would respond to any action against them following their US classification as "terrorists."

"We are ready to take all necessary measures against any hostile act," they said in a statement.

The designation is expected to halt many transactions with Huthi authorities, including bank transfers and payments to medical personnel and for food and fuel, due to fears of US prosecution.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, called on the United States to reverse the move.

"Our position on this has not changed," Dujarric said. "We call on the government to reverse that decision."

"Our concern from the beginning, that we expressed very clearly, is the impact on the commercial sector," he said.

"The vast majority of food and other basic supplies that comes into Yemen comes in through the commercial sector."