Yemen's Houthi rebels confirm approval for UN mission to evaluate, repair rusting oil tanker in Red Sea

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SANAA, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Yemeni Houthi rebels confirmed their approval for a UN mission to inspect and repair a long-abandoned oil tanker off Yemen's Red Sea coast, Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported on Thursday.

"An urgent maintenance agreement and a comprehensive evaluation of the Safer oil tanker was signed with the United Nations in order to avoid an environmental catastrophe," the television quoted a statement from the group's head of the revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, as saying.

On Tuesday, the United Nations said it has been given the go-ahead from the Yemeni Houthi group to inspect and make emergency repairs on the rusting oil tanker.

"I think if everything comes together, we would expect the mission staff and the equipment to arrive on-site by late January or early February," Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Tuesday at a regular briefing.

Planning and deployment preparations of the expert UN mission include procurement of necessary equipment, entry permits for all staff, agreement of a work-order system onboard and logistical planning, said Dujarric.

The United Nations has been saying for months that the floating oil storage vessel was in imminent danger of leaking some or all of the more than 1 million barrels of oil on board.

The Safer oil tanker has been moored at Ras Isa, a port north of the city of Hodeidah, since 1988, where it had been receiving, storing and exporting crude oil flowing from the Marib oil fields in Yemen.

Due to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, all production and export operations related to Safer oil tanker have been suspended, but an estimated over 1 million barrels of oil remain onboard.

It has not been inspected or maintained since 2015. Enditem

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