Yemen cuts ties with Iran over backing for rebels

Saudi-backed govt accuses Iran of financing, arming Houthi rebels against President Hadi

ADEN • The Saudi-backed Yemeni government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has decided to sever diplomatic relations with Iran, state-owned Aden television reported yesterday.

The decision came after the Yemeni government accused Iran of arming and financing the Houthi rebels against President Hadi - an accusation which Iran has denied repeatedly.

"Iran repeatedly intervened in Yemen's internal affairs and supported sabotage acts in the country such as sending weapons to Houthi militia," government spokesman Rajeh Badi told Xinhua news agency, adding that Yemen's embassy staff in Tehran might leave Iran.

Bahrain had also recalled its ambassador from Iran on Thursday.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in the war in March to try to restore Yemen's government after it was forced into exile by the Houthis, aiming to contain what Gulf states see as Iran's growing influence in their backyard.

Separately, a United Nations report yesterday said that during the six months since Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen's Iran- backed Houthi rebels, more than 500 children have been killed, while about 1.7 million youth are at risk of malnutrition.

At least 505 children have died and 702 have been injured, said Mr Christophe Boulierac, spokesman for the UN children's agency, adding that these were "conservative figures". He said the children were being killed in the bombing campaigns and amid street fighting.

"The situation for children is deteriorating every single day, and it is horrific," he added, urging all parties with influence to bring an end to the violence.

He also lamented a sharp increase in the recruitment of children as fighters in the war-ravaged country, with 606 verified cases so far this year. That is four times the 156 cases verified in 2014, he said.

"Children in Yemen are being used by armed groups, manning checkpoints or carrying arms," he said, adding that "the recruitment is happening on both sides".

In the impoverished country, where 80 per cent of the population is under 18, about 10 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

At least 2,355 civilians have been killed in Yemen's conflict since late March, and another 4,862 injured, the UN Human Rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said. About 1.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

But a European-backed resolution calling for a UN investigation into rights abuses committed during the conflict was withdrawn this week due to pressure from Saudi Arabia. The Dutch-drafted UN rights council proposal had called for a full inquiry into violations in Yemen since September last year.

Saudi Arabia, which opposed such a probe, introduced its own watered-down proposal on Yemen, which supported a domestic probe.

The Saudi resolution was adopted with the support of the US and Britain by the UN's top rights body yesterday by consensus.

XINHUA, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'Yemen cuts ties with Iran over backing for rebels'. Print Edition | Subscribe