Regional tensions: Iran demands immediate halt to Saudi airstrikes in Yemen

Iran denies providing money and training to the Shi'ite Houthi militia in Yemen, as alleged by some Western and Yemeni officials.

March 26, 2015 10:56
2 minute read.

People search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike near Sanaa Airport.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

ANKARA - Iran demanded an immediate halt to Saudi-led military operations in Yemen on Thursday and said it would make all necessary efforts to control the crisis there, Iranian news agencies reported.

Warplanes from Saudi Arabia and Arab allies on Thursday struck Iran-allied Houthi forces fighting to oust the country's Western-backed president. Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV reported a ground offensive with troops from other Muslim states was being prepared.

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"The Saudi-led air strikes should stop immediately and it is against Yemen's sovereignty," the Students News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying.

"We will make all efforts to control crisis in Yemen," Zarif said, according to the agency's report from the Swiss city of Lausanne where he is negotiating with world powers on curbing Iran's nuclear program.

Earlier on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry in Tehran called for an immediate end to the military operations.

"Iran wants an immediate halt to all military aggressions and air strikes against Yemen and its people," Fars quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as saying.

"Military actions in Yemen, which faces a domestic crisis, ... will further complicate the situation ... and will hinder efforts to resolve the crisis through peaceful ways."

Violence has spread across Yemen since last year, with Houthi militia seizing Sanaa and sidelining US ally President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. It has made Yemen a front in Saudi Arabia's region-wide rivalry with Shi'ite-dominated Iran.

Iran denies providing money and training to the Shi'ite Houthi militia in Yemen, as alleged by some Western and Yemeni officials.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen called on Monday for Gulf Arab help to prevent the Houthis from gaining control of its Yemeni airspace.

Afkham warned that the Saudi-led "aggression is a dangerous move which is in violation of international responsibilities for respecting the sovereignty of countries.

"It will lead to spread of terrorism and extremism in the Middle East region," Fars quoted her as saying.

In the military operation, the Saudis are contributing 100 warplanes and 150,000 soldiers, al-Arabiya television reported on Thursday. Planes from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain are also taking part in the operation, it said, adding that Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Sudan are ready to participate in a ground offensive.

The White House said in a statement late on Wednesday that the United States supported the operation led by the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council countries and that President Barack Obama had authorized US "logistical and intelligence support."

"While US forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support," National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in the statement.

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