Arab League to discuss Yemen intervention plea on Thursday

The Arab League will discuss the crisis in Yemen on Thursday, the regional body's deputy secretary general said, after the country's foreign minister called on Arab states to intervene militarily to halt an advance by the Shi'ite Houthi militia.

"Yemen's foreign minister proposed the idea today … in a meeting with the Arab League Secretary General," Ahmed Ben Hilli, told Al Arabiya Al Hadath television channel, on Wednesday.

"The issue will be presented tomorrow at foreign minister level."

Arab heads of state are due to meet in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on March 28-29 to discuss a range of conflicts in the region, including Yemen and Libya, as well as the threat posed by Islamic State militants. The foreign ministers usually meet a day before the heads-of-state summit.

Yemen on Tuesday asked the United Nations Security Council to back military action by "willing countries" to combat the Houthis' advance, according to a letter from President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi seen by Reuters.

Hadi said he has asked the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council comprised of Gulf Arab states "to provide immediately all means necessary, including military intervention, to protect Yemen and its people."

The Houthis and their allies seized a key air base on Wednesday and appeared poised to capture the southern port of Aden from defenders loyal to Hadi, residents said.

Ben Hilli said Arab ministers would exchange points of view on Yemen's request "because we don't want the issues to be more complicated in Yemen".

"Without a doubt, Arab countries have a big and national responsibility … in the end what is agreed in terms of practical steps or efforts made will be announced," he said.

In March 2011, the Arab League called on the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone in Libya, in a decision that gave a regional seal of approval for the NATO air campaign that followed and eventually helped in toppling Muammar Gaddafi.

Four years later, the North African country is in chaos with two rival administrations battling for control.

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