UAE: US rejects military aid request in Yemen port assault

In this Feb. 12, 2018, photo, women walk past Saudi-led coalition backed forces, leading the campaign to take over Hodeida, as they patrol Mocha, a port city on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Violence, famine and disease have ravished the country of some 28 million, which was already the Arab world’s poorest before the conflict began. The conflict pits a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized government, which has nominally relocated to Aden but largely lives in exile, against rebels known as Houthis. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty) –The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has rejected three separate requests from the United Arab Emirates for military assistance in the Saudi-led coalition attack on the Yemeni port of Hodeida, a senior UAE official said Thursday.

The official said that the Trump administration denied the requests within the past 24 hours as a UAE operation to wrest control of the port from Iranian-backed Shiite rebels got underway. The rejected requests were for aerial satellite imagery, other surveillance and reconnaissance, and minesweeping, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

According to the official, the minesweeper request, which was made because the coalition believes the Houthi rebels have been placing mines in the port, was redirected to France, which agreed.

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The U.S. has not publicly opposed the assault but has urged the coalition to ensure that humanitarian aid deliveries to the port continue.

An administration official acknowledged that the coalition would like the U.S. to get more involved militarily in the battle to free the port, but so far that has not happened. The U.S. official was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and also requested anonymity.

Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. has continued to provide aerial refueling for coalition aircraft and intelligence assistance. That aid including information on key civilian sites that should be not be targeted in strikes in order to avoid civilian casualties.

“We are not directly supporting the coalition offensive on the port of Hodeida,” Rankine-Galloway said. “The United States does not command, accompany, or participate in counter-Houthi operations or any hostilities other than those authorized” against al-Qaida and Islamic State militants in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition launched the assault on Hodeida on Wednesday, raising worries that it could worsen Yemen’s humanitarian disaster and trigger prolonged fighting in the streets.

The U.N. Security Council has pressed for a diplomatic solution to end Yemen’s three-year conflict with Shiite rebels, and has been working to relaunch negotiations with the Houthis to have them withdraw from the port.

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Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.