U.S. sanctions network charged with funding Yemen's Houthis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Thursday announced sanctions on what it called members of a smuggling network that generates tens millions of dollars for Yemen's Houthis, pressuring the Iran-aligned movement to accept a ceasefire and peace talks.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has sought to advance a U.N. effort to ease Yemen's dire humanitarian crisis and end the war pitting the Houthis against the government and a Saudi-led coalition.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated a call for the Houthis to accept a nationwide ceasefire and a resumption of talks on a political settlement to the seven-year-old conflict.

"The United States will continue to apply pressure to the Houthis, including through targeted sanctions, to advance those goals," he said in a statement.

Twelve individuals and entities were slapped with terrorism-related sanctions blocking any U.S. property they hold, and barring Americans from doing business with them. Foreign financial institutions that deal with them could be blacklisted.

The network works with Iran's Quds Force, the elite arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, to generate "tens of millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of commodities, like Iranian petroleum," a U.S. Treasury statement said.

A "significant portion" of the funds are "directed through a complex network of intermediaries and exchange houses in multiple countries to the Houthis in Yemen," it continued.

Funds also underwrite "destabilizing regional activities" of the Quds Force and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, it said.

The network, it said, is headed by Said Ahmad Muhammad al-Jamal, an Iran-based Yemeni who oversees the smuggling "of Iranian fuel, petroleum products, and other commodities to customers throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia."

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)

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