Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States defended military action in Yemen, saying the country had no choice but to defend its neighbour against what it sees as aggression from allies of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"They have no choice but to give up their quest to take over Yemen by force because they will fail, we will make sure of this," Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir said.

"There is no circumstance under which the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh will prevail in any way, shape or form in Yemen," he added.

Saleh has teamed up with his old foes, the Iranian-allied Houthis, against his former backer Saudi Arabia, displaying the political skill that enabled him to rule the heavily armed and fractious country for more than three decades.

Saudi Arabia launched the air attacks last month as Houthi rebels, who had taken control of the capital Sanaa in September, closed in on the port city of Aden and forced Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Riyadh.

The Houthis and pro-Saleh army units have been fighting alongside each other on several fronts against militia forces loyal to Hadi.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday imposed an arms embargo targeting the Iran-allied Houthi rebels who now control most of Yemen as battles in the south of the country intensified.

Ambassador al-Jubeir called the Security Action validation for Saudi action in Yemen.

"The resolution we see as a victory for Yemen and for the Yemeni people and the legitimate government of Yemen, so we are pleased with that development. It also makes crystal clear to the Houthis and to former President Saleh that the whole world is united in condemning the actions that they have taken in condemning their attempts to impose their will on Yemen" al-Jubeir told reporters.

The UN resolution also demanded the Houthis stop fighting and withdraw from areas they have seized, including the capital Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf powers accuse Iran of arming the Houthis, who are fellow Shi'ite Muslims, and interfering in Yemen's affairs. Tehran denies giving the Houthis military support.