London (Reuters) - An Iranian aid ship docked on Friday in Djibouti, where its cargo will be inspected by the United Nations before being moved to conflict-torn Yemen, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported.
“The ship docked a few minutes ago in Djibouti,” Fars said. “The ship entered Djibouti waters yesterday and after inspection by the international organization will head toward Yemen.”
Tehran agreed this week to allow an international inspection of the vessel, the Iran Shahed, averting a potential showdown with Saudi-led forces who are enforcing searches of ships entering Yemeni ports to stop arms reaching Houthi rebels.
Shi‘ite power Iran backs the dominant Houthi militia in Yemen’s civil war while regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Muslim allies have carried out almost two months of air raids against them and want Yemen’s president reinstated.
Tehran has rejected Saudi accusations it is arming Houthi fighters.
The ship had originally been bound for the Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodaida, which is controlled by the Houthis, but its aid cargo will now be delivered by the World Food Program, the U.N agency said on Friday.
“The cargo of the ship will be handed over to WFP in Djibouti and will be transferred to WFP-chartered vessels for shipment to the Yemeni ports of Hodaida and/or (the southern port city of) Aden,” WFP spokeswoman Abeer Etefa said.
“It will be delivered to humanitarian partners on the ground for distribution.”
Etefa said the WFP had been told the 2,500 ton cargo included supplies of rice, flour, canned fish, medicine, water, tents and blankets.
Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; Editing by Catherine Evans