UN in contact with kidnapped Norwegian

The United Nations is in contact with a Norwegian UN worker kidnapped in Yemen and is negotiating his release with the tribe responsible for his abduction, a UN spokesman said Sunday.

The expert for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who has not been named, was seized in the capital Sanaa late Saturday "as part of a tribal dispute," deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey told AFP.

"The tribe has made assurances regarding the safety of the staff member who reportedly remains in good health," the spokesman added.

The UN in Yemen is working with the government in a bid to end the hostage-taking. The UN "remains in contact with the staff member and representatives of the tribe," Del Buey said.

In Yemen, a tribal source told AFP that tribesmen were behind the kidnapping and that the man had been taken to the eastern province of Marib.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the tribe wants "one of their tribesmen to be released from prison.

"The kidnapping comes two months after the release of a French aid worker and her Yemeni driver and translator who were abducted in the country's restive southern region on November 22nd.

 All three were released unharmed two days later.

Tribes in Yemen often kidnap foreigners to put pressure on the authorities.

More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years, with almost all later freed unharmed.

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Norway halts defence exports to Saudi Arabia over Yemen

Norway said on Friday it was freezing all defence material export licences to Saudi Arabia over recent developments in the country and the war in Yemen.

The announcement came amid international outrage over Riyadh’s killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October, though Norway did not mention the murder specifically.
“We have decided that, in the current situation, no new licences are to be granted for exports of defence-related products or dual-use items for military use to Saudi Arabia,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in a statement.

“The decision was taken after an overall assessment of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the region, and the unpredictable situation in Yemen,” the foreign ministry said.

Norway sold defence material worth more than 41 million kroner ($4.86 million, 4.29 million euros) to Riyadh last year, according to Norwegian news agency NTB.
The Scandinavian country has never allowed exports of arms or ammunition to Saudi Arabia, the ministry said.
It said it had no indication that Norwegian defence-related products were being used in Yemen, and stressed its decision was “precautionary”.

Saudi Arabia leads a coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the government there against Shiite Huthi rebels who are backed by Riyadh’s arch enemy Iran.
The coalition has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen aimed at pushing the Huthis back, but the rebels still hold the key port city of Hodeida and the capital Sanaa.
Pro-government forces are currently pushing deeper into Hodeida amid fierce fighting. Nearly 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict since 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Human rights groups say the real death toll may be five times higher.
Several aid organisations and opposition parties have recently demanded that Norway halt its defence material exports to Saudi Arabia.