Houthis ask U.N. to sell Yemeni crude and use revenues for imports, salaries

DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemen’s Houthi movement on Tuesday asked the United Nations to arrange the sale of Yemeni crude oil and use the revenues to finance fuel imports and pay public sector salaries via the central bank.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, singled out a batch of crude which has been floating in a tanker off the war-torn country’s coast since the four-year conflict began.

It is thought the floating storage tanker off the Red Sea coast could contain more than a million barrels of crude oil.

“We call on the U.N. and the Security Council to put in place a mechanism to sell Yemeni crude oil, including the oil in the (floating storage tank),” al-Houthi said on Twitter.

Before the war, Yemen’s government relied heavily on revenues from oil sales, but conflict stopped almost all production and export.

Al-Houthi said that remaining revenues should be put into the two halves of the central bank. Yemen’s central bank has split into two rival head offices, reflecting the war between the Saudi-backed government and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, creating hold-ups and payment problems that have exacerbated an urgent humanitarian crisis.

Al-Houthi said a U.N.-mediated sale of crude would enable salaries to be paid, give the population access to cheaper fuel, support the currency and prevent environmental damage - a reference to concerns the unattended storage tanker might leak.

It would also “prevent the arrival of Iranian oil (as is alleged)” into Yemen, he said.

Plagued by decades of instability, Yemen’s most recent conflict began in late 2014 when Houthi forces drove the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa. A Saudi-backed alliance of Yemeni and Arab forces then intervened in March 2015 to restore Hadi’s government.

The Houthi movement, which says it is a revolution against corruption, controls Sanaa and most population centers.

Conflict has pushed Yemen, which was already one of the poorest Arab states, to the brink of famine and killed tens of thousands of people.

War has cut transport routes for aid, fuel and food, reduced imports and caused severe inflation. Households have lost their incomes because public sector wages are not being paid and violence has forced people from their homes and jobs.

A peace process that began with a December agreement has stalled as the U.N. tries to get the parties to pull troops out of the main port of Hodeidah, on the Red Sea coast, and complete a prisoner exchange.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington in Dubai and Mohammed Ghobari in Aden; Editing by Lisa Shumaker