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Yemen Houthis say Saudi-led coalition diverted fuel ship

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The Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC) on Wednesday said the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Houthis had diverted to a Saudi port a fifth fuel vessel heading for the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah, part of a tussle over imports into the war-torn country.

Essam al-Mutawakkal, who heads the YPC in Houthi areas, said five such fuel ships that had received United Nations clearances to enter Yemen were currently being detained by the coalition.

Air and sea access to Yemen is controlled by the Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in Yemen in early 2015 after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital Sanaa.

Restrictions on the import of fuel and other goods into Yemen, where 16 million people don't have enough food reliably available and millions are on the brink of famine, have been a strong point of contention in the conflict. The Houthis have demanded the air and sea blockade be lifted before any peace deal.

The Saudi-led coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the status of the ship, which the YPC said was called Splendour Sapphire.

The Iran-aligned Houthis on Monday seized a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo vessel in the Red Sea that they said was engaged in "hostile acts", but which the Saudis said was carrying hospital equipment.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday condemned the Houthis' seizure of the ship and urged its release, adding all parties should be de-escalating and returning to inclusive political talks.

Reuters 05 January 21