US President Joe Biden is moving to revoke the designation of Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist group, citing the need to mitigate one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
Former president Donald Trump’s administration had branded the Iranian-backed Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation.
This move limited the provision of aid to the Yemeni people, who have suffered under a years-long civil war and famine.
A State Department official confirmed the move on Friday, after members of Congress were notified of the Biden administration’s plans.
The official said the removal changed nothing about the Biden administration’s views of the Houthis, who have targeted civilians and kidnapped Americans.
“Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organisations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the official said.
The move comes a day after Mr Biden announced an end to US support for offensive operations in Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis.
The Obama administration in 2015 gave its approval to Saudi Arabia leading a cross-border air campaign targeting the Houthi rebels, who were seizing more territory after taking the capital, Sanaa.
The Houthis have launched numerous drone and missile strikes deep into Saudi Arabia.
The US says the Saudi-led campaign has entrenched Iran’s role in the conflict, on the side of the Houthis.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy praised the Biden administration’s move.
“The designation did not impact the Houthis in any practical way, but it stopped food and other critical aid from being delivered inside Yemen and would have prevented effective political negotiation,” he said.