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Iran, Saudis on Collision Course over Yemen

Source: VOA

Saudi Arabia's bombardment of Yemen
(by Ali Jahanshahi, Iranian daily Shargh)

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia continued to escalate Saturday, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani slamming Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

"You planted the seeds of hatred in the hearts" of people in the region, said Rouhani at Iran's National Army Day ceremony, in comments directed at Saudi Arabia. "And you will see the response sooner or later," he added.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei previously called the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen a "genocide" and a "crime." Iran is believed to back the Shi'ite Houthi rebels with both military and financial support, but denies it.

Humanitarian assistance

Following more airstrikes Friday, Saudi Arabia pledged Saturday to provide the entire $274 million the United Nations requested for emergency humanitarian assistance in Yemen. The U.N. says at least 150,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, while more than 700 have died since the Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes three weeks ago.

"This contribution demonstrates the Kingdom's commitment to help the fraternal Yemeni people," an official statement quoted Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir as saying.

The Houthis took control of the capital, Sana'a in September. They then swept southward, forcing Western-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee.

The rebels are allied with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted as part of the so-called Arab Spring protests in 2012.

Iranian peace plan

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif submitted a Yemen peace plan to the United Nations. The plan calls for an end to all foreign attacks, the resumption of Yemeni-led talks and a national unity government.

The Saudi-led coalition carried out bombings in several cities Friday, including Sana'a, the country's second-largest city Taiz, and the southern port city of Aden.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida has been capitalizing on the chaos in Yemen to strengthen its stronghold in the country's east. On Friday, al-Qaida fighters overran a key army camp in the capital of Hadramawt province, Mukalla. Officials say the group seized tanks, rocket launchers and small arms.

Diplomatic efforts

Also Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Saudi Arabia's King Salman. The White House says the two leaders agreed on the need for a political solution for Yemen that is facilitated by the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Thursday for an "immediate cease-fire" in Yemen. In a speech in Washington, Mr. Ban warned Yemen was "in flames" and said the only resolution was for "all sides" to stop hostilities and take part in negotiations.

"The United Nations-supported diplomatic process remains the best way out of a drawn-out war with terrifying implications for regional stability," he told the National Press Club.

Earlier this week, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Morocco-born Jamal Benomar, left his post after failing to bring the sides together for peace talks.

Diplomatic sources have said Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed could soon be named as Benomar's replacement.

The Saudis and many of their coalition allies are reported to have been frustrated with what they saw as Benomar's soft stance toward the Houthis.

Ban has not commented on Benomar's replacement, but the U.N. chief said Thursday the Saudis have assured him they understand "there must be a political process."

... Payvand News - 04/18/15 ... --

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