Tags: Yemen | conflict

US Warns Iran: Back Off Supporting Yemen Rebels

Thursday, 09 April 2015 12:54 PM

Washington warned Thursday it would not stand by while Tehran supports rebels in Yemen, as Iran's supreme leader denounced Saudi-led air strikes as "criminal acts."

In the most direct American criticism yet of Tehran's backing for the Shiite Huthi rebels, Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington would not accept foreign interference in Yemen.

"There have been -- there are, obviously -- flights coming from Iran. Every single week there are flights from Iran and we've traced it and know this," Kerry told PBS television.

"Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries in other countries."

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Washington has backed the air campaign which begin last month as the rebels advanced on Yemen's main southern city of Aden after seizing Sanaa.

Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the campaign against the Huthis must end.

"This move is not acceptable in the region and I would warn that they must stop these criminal acts in Yemen," he said on his website.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled Aden for Saudi Arabia during the Huthi advance and the city has since seen heavy clashes between pro- and anti-government forces.

Riyadh has accused Tehran, the major Shiite power, of backing the rebels in a bid to establish a pro-Iran state on its doorstep.



But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Tehran wanted a swift end to the fighting which has killed more than 640 people since March 19, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN children's agency warned Thursday that around 30 percent of fighters in Yemen's armed groups were minors.

"We are seeing children in battle, at checkpoints and unfortunately among (those) killed and injured," Julien Harneis, UNICEF's representative in Yemen, told AFP during a stop in Geneva.

Kerry, after world powers agreed a framework deal with Iran on its nuclear program, said Washington was not looking for confrontation.

"But we're not going to step away from our alliances and our friendships and the need to stand with those who feel threatened as a consequence of the choices that Iran might be making."

In another sign of growing US support for the Saudi effort, the Pentagon said it had started aerial refueling for coalition aircraft.

Overnight air strikes killed at least 14 rebels near Aden's northern edge, a source in pro-government forces told AFP.

On Thursday, witnesses heard three explosions as coalition aircraft attacked the defense ministry building in Sanaa.

Norwegian media reported that a 28-year-old journalist named as Raymond Lidal has been held in Sanaa since late March and accused of spying after failing to show a journalist's visa while filming air strikes against the Huthis.

An official in Aden said air strikes also hit a military camp in the southern Shabwa province held by the Huthis' main allies, forces who have remained loyal to former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh who was ousted in 2012 after an Arab Spring-inspired uprising.

There was no information on casualties.

Afterwards, the troops deployed in nearby Ataq city and raised Huthi flags, military sources said.

Since Saleh's ouster, Hadi has been unable to assert government authority in a deeply divided tribal country.



As well as the Huthis, from north Yemen, the government has struggled against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered the most dangerous branch of the jihadist network.

Yemen for years allowed Washington to wage a drone war against AQAP, but US forces pulled out amid the latest unrest.

Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the chaos to seize some areas and also launch deadly attacks on both government forces and the Huthis.

Concern has been growing for what aid workers say is a mounting humanitarian crisis.

Some aid trickled in to Aden by ship on Wednesday but efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to organize cargo flights into Sanaa have so far failed.

In Aden, witnesses have said the situation is dire, with bodies lying in the streets.

Diplomatic efforts have stepped up to resolve the conflict, with the Iranian and Pakistani foreign ministers pledging at talks in Islamabad on Wednesday to work towards finding a negotiated solution.

Zarif laid out a four-stage plan for talks, calling for an immediate ceasefire followed by humanitarian assistance, dialogue among Yemenis and creation of an "all-inclusive government".

Turkish media quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday as calling for a regional effort to end the fighting.

"Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran should be involved in efforts for a diplomatic solution," he said.

© AFP 2021

Washington warned Thursday it would not stand by while Tehran supports rebels in Yemen, as Iran's supreme leader denounced Saudi-led air strikes as "criminal acts."
Yemen, conflict
Thursday, 09 April 2015 12:54 PM
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