Yemen on edge: Saudi-led coalition carries air strikes on Houthis; Iran calls it 'dangerous'

In what may intensify the Yemen crisis, Iran has termed Saudi Arabia's military intervention against the Houthi rebels as “dangerous”, reports said Thursday.

Last Updated: Mar 26, 2015, 21:09 PM IST
Yemen on edge: Saudi-led coalition carries air strikes on Houthis; Iran calls it 'dangerous'

Tehran: In what may intensify the Yemen crisis, Iran has termed Saudi Arabia-led military intervention against the Houthi rebels as “dangerous” and demanded an immediate halt to strikes, reports said Thursday.

Saudi Arabia which had earlier warned to act in the wake of continued advance of Houthis, on Wednesday started conducting air strikes against the rebels which it considers as being supported by rival Iran.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of 10 countries who have joined hands with Riyadh to protect Yemen's Hadi government against Houthis' advance, said Saudy envoy to the US Adel al-Jubeir.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.

Reacting to Saudi strikes, Iran Foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham condemned the air strikes on Huthi rebels in Yemen, Reuters reported.

Calling it "a dangerous step" that violated "international responsibilities and national sovereignty," she added that military action would "further complicate the situation, spread the crisis and remove opportunities for a peaceful resolution of Yemen`s internal differences."

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Switzerland for Iran nuclear talks, held a conference call with Gulf ministers to discuss the developments in the wake of Saudi-led strikes, reported the AFP.

Kerry "commended the work of the coalition taking military action against the Huthis" and noted Washington`s support "including intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and advisory and logistical support for strikes against Huthi targets," the AFP quoted a US State Department official.

Earlier, the White House said that the US was coordinating military and intelligence support with the Saudis but not taking part directly in the strikes.

Saudi's air strikes comes as Yemeni foreign minister had requested for foreign military intervention in face of rapid territorial advances by the Houthi rebels, which forced President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee.

In comments made to Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Yemeni foreign minister also requested to the UN and the Gulf Cooperation Council for a no-fly zone to be imposed after warplanes were said to have hit the presidential palace in Aden over the weekend.

As Shiite rebels and their allies moved southwards, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea Wednesday, officials said.

Hours later, Saudi Arabia announced it had begun airstrikes against the Houthi rebels.

The departure of the close US ally and the imminent fall of the southern port of Aden pushed Yemen further toward a violent collapse. It also threatened to turn the impoverished but strategic country into another proxy battle between the Middle East's Sunni powers and Shiite-led Iran.

Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir said his country had begun airstrikes against the rebels. He said his government had consulted closely with the US and other allies but that the US military was not involved in the operations.

The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, saying they would answer a request from Hadi "to protect Yemen and his dear people from the aggression of the Houthi militias which were and are still a tool in the hands of foreign powers that don't stop meddling with the security and stability of brotherly Yemen." Oman, the sixth member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, didn't sign onto the statement.

In a statement from the state news agency Egypt, too, announced political and military support. "There is coordination ongoing now with Saudi Arabia and the brotherly gulf countries about preparations to participate with an Egyptian air and naval forces and ground troops if necessary," the statement said.

Arab leaders are expected to meet in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik this weekend for a pre-planned summit, which is now expected to be dominated by the developments in Yemen. It is not clear if Hadi will be able to attend the summit.

The Houthis said in a statement to reporters that Saudi jets hit the military base, known as al-Duleimi, and that they responded with anti-aircraft missiles.

With Agency Inputs