At Arab League summit, Egypt says backs unified Arab force against regional threats

Saudi Arabia evacuate diplomats from southern Yemeni port city of Aden due to security situation.

By REUTERS
March 28, 2015 13:35
1 minute read.
arab league summit

Arab foreign ministers speak together before meeting ahead of the Arab League Summit. (photo credit: REUTERS)

CAIRO - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told an Arab League summit on Saturday that Cairo backed calls for a unified Arab force to confront regional security threats.

Sisi also said Egypt's participation in a military campaign against Shi'ite Houthi militias in Yemen, which has been led by Saudi Arabia, aimed to "preserve Yemen's unity and the peace of its territories."

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Saudi-led air forces struck a convoy of Yemeni Houthi fighters advancing on Aden from the east on Saturday, residents said, and the Saudi navy evacuated diplomats from the southern port city.

The Iranian-allied Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters, seeking to overthrow the Western- and Saudi-allied President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, have continued to make gains since the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against them early on Thursday.

Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi arrived in Egypt on Friday for the 26th Arab League summit which will focus on the Saudi-led military campaign against his Houthi militia opponents.

Hadi left his refuge in Aden for Saudi Arabia on Thursday, as Houthi fighters battled with his forces on the outskirts of the southern port city.

Yemen's Houthi rebels made broad gains in the country's south and east on Friday despite a second day of Saudi-led air strikes meant to check the Iranian-backed militia's efforts to overthrow Hadi.

Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters and allied army units gained their first foothold on Yemen's Arabian Sea coast by seizing the port of Shaqra 100km (60 miles) east of Aden, residents told Reuters.

The advances threaten Hadi's last refuge in Yemen and potentially undermine the air campaign to support him.

The losses came as the spokesman for the Saudi-led operation, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, told a press conference in Riyadh that defending the Aden government was the campaign's "main objective."

Warplanes targeted Houthi forces controlling Yemen's capital Sanaa and their northern heartland on Friday.

Asseri said that planes from the United Arab Emirates had carried out their first strikes in the past 24 hours.

In a boost for Saudi Arabia, Morocco said it would join the rapidly assembled Sunni Muslim coalition against the Houthis.

Pakistan, named by Saudi Arabia as a partner, said it had made no decision on whether to contribute.


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