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Photo: John Minchillo - Pool/Getty Images

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres denounced Ethiopian officials Wednesday for claiming the UN had inflated the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in the country and warned people were facing "famine-like conditions."

Why it matters: The Ethiopian foreign affairs ministry expelled seven UN officials from the country last week, accusing them of "meddling" in its affairs by warning thousands of people in war-torn Tigray were likely experiencing government-caused famine.

Driving the news: Taye Atske Selassie Amde, Ethiopia's ambassador to the UN, accused the organization at the end of its council meeting Wednesday of exaggerating the number of people in need by over 1 million and making false claims about the hunger crisis, including dozens of displaced people dying in a camp, AP notes.

  • He also accused UN officials of supporting the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front in the ongoing war with the government.

What they're saying: Guterres told reporters that he had twice asked Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to share any concerns about the UN's impartiality with him so he could investigate, per Reuters.

  • "Until now, I had no response to these requests," the UN secretary-general said, calling on the government to provide documentation of their allegations against the United Nations.
  • "The people of Ethiopia are suffering. We have no other interest but to help stop that suffering," he added.

Threat level: Guterres highlighted at the Security Council meeting the difficulty in delivering humanitarian aid to the regions most affected by the conflict, saying "movements are being severely restricted by official and unofficial checkpoints ... and other obstacles."

  • "Humanitarian aid is still not reaching the area at anywhere close to the levels needed," Guterres said.
  • "The country is facing an immense humanitarian crisis that demands immediate attention," he added. "All efforts should be squarely focused on saving lives and avoiding a massive human tragedy."

Of note: Guterres called on Ethiopian authorities to allow the UN to help with humanitarian efforts "without hindrance and to facilitate and enable our work with the urgency that this situation demands."

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said at the Security Council meeting that the Ethiopian government should let the United Nations officials back in, calling their expulsion "reckless."

The big picture: Hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine conditions in Tigray. Still, less than 10% of the needed humanitarian supplies have reached the region over the last month, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez writes.

  • The Biden administration threatened last month to impose new sanctions on Ethiopian officials "responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict" in the Tigray region.

Go deeper

Jan 13, 2022 - World

Russian officials to brief Putin on "very disappointing" security talks

Putin with Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu. Photo: Russian Defence Ministry\TASS via Getty Images

Russian diplomats panned this week's security talks with the U.S., NATO and other European countries after the final set of negotiations on Thursday, telling reporters that Vladimir Putin will be briefed on the "really disappointing" state of affairs before deciding "next steps."

Why it matters: The diplomats wouldn't say what Russia would do if NATO declined to provide legal guarantees that it will not expand east or admit Ukraine as a member. But officials have warned all week that Russia will not hesitate to "eliminate unacceptable threats to our national security" if diplomacy fails.

Pelosi announces bid for re-election ahead of 2022 midterms

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her bid for re-election Tuesday, amid a deluge of other safe-seat Democrats announcing their retirements.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s announcement follows months of speculation — despite her denials — that she was preparing to leave Congress.

Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, leaves the White House after meeting President Trump in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.