Iran plans to announce the appointment of a new ambassador in Yemen after the death of the previous envoy Hasan Irlu, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday.

Tehran said on December 21 that Irlu, its envoy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa that is controlled by the Iran-aligned Houthi group, died of COVID-19 after being repatriated in mid-December. Iran accused Saudi Arabia of having delayed his departure from Sanaa, a charge the Saudi government has strongly denied.

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“We are in the process of announcing a new ambassador” in Sanaa, Khatibzadeh told a news conference.

An Arab-led coalition that has been battling Houthi forces in support of Yemen’s internationally recognized government for more than six years has imposed a sea and air blockade on Houthi-controlled areas.

The coalition intervened in Yemen against the Houthis after they ousted the Yemeni government from Sanaa in north Yemen. The government is now based in the southern Yemeni port of Aden.

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