U.S. says Yemen's Houthis bear "major responsibility" in conflict

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FILE PHOTO: Armed Houthi followers ride on the back of a truck after participating in a funeral of Houthi fighters killed in recent fighting against government forces in Yemen's oil-rich province of Marib, in Sanaa, Yemen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Friday blamed Iran-aligned Houthis for the failure of a ceasefire to take hold in Yemen on Friday and accused them of not taking other steps toward ending the brutal conflict.

"While there are numerous problematic actors inside of Yemen, the Houthis bear major responsibility for refusing to engage meaningfully on a ceasefire and to take steps to resolve a nearly seven-year conflict that has brought unimaginable suffering to the Yemeni people," the State Department said.

The U.S. special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, returned on Thursday from a trip to Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, where he discussed the humanitarian and economic crisis in Yemen with government officials, Yemenis and international partners, the department said in a statement.

Since taking office in January, U.S. President Joe Biden has made Yemen a priority and appointed Lenderking to help revive stalled U.N. peace efforts.

After Lenderking returned from a visit last month, the State Department accused the Houthis of worsening Yemen's humanitarian crisis by attacking Marib, the last northern stronghold of the Saudi-backed government that the Houthis drove out of the capital.

The situation has not changed.

"The Houthis continue a devastating offensive on Marib that is condemned by the international community and leaves the Houthis increasingly isolated," the State Department said.

Lenderking had talked to Yemenis about strengthening "inclusive processes" that could help citizens discuss the country's future and increase efforts towards peace, it said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Susan Heavey and Hugh Lawson)

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