Iran accuses US over Saudi 'atrocities' in Yemen

Graffiti depicting a US drone is seen on a wall in Sana'a, Yemen. Iran said the US was responsible for Saudi atrocities in Yemen, on Nov 26, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran on Sunday accused the United States of responsibility for "atrocities" in Yemen through its support for Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition fighting Teheran-backed Houthi rebels.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said a White House statement on Friday in support of Riyadh "clearly and without question proves America's participation and responsibility in the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen".

In its statement, Washington had said it was "committed to supporting Saudi Arabia... against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' aggression and blatant violations of international law". Shi'ite-ruled Iran and Sunni heavyweight Saudi Arabia, who are regional arch-rivals, back opposing sides in conflicts from Yemen to Syria.

They cut diplomatic relations in January 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic missions in reaction to Riyadh's execution of a prominent Shi'ite cleric.

In early November, Riyadh accused Teheran of "direct aggression" after Saudi forces intercepted a missile fired by Houthi forces towards Riyadh's international airport.

But Ghassemi denied that Iran has "any military connection with Yemen", although Teheran says it supports the Houthis politically and regularly denounces Saudi Arabia for allegedly bombing civilians.

Accusing Washington of making "totally unfounded" allegations, Ghassemi said its statement on Friday showed it "openly supports... appalling atrocities" by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

The Saudi-led Arab military coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to support President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after the Houthis forced him into exile.

Last month, the United Nations put the coalition on its blacklist for killing and maiming 683 children during the conflict last year and carrying out 38 verified attacks on schools and hospitals.

A report published in mid-November by the Congressional Research Service showed that Riyadh had signed arms deals worth more than US$65 billion (S$87 billion) with the United States between 2009 and 2016.

"Since 2015, the US-trained Saudi military has used US-origin weaponry, US logistical assistance, and shared intelligence in support of military operations in Yemen," it said.

Both parties in the Yemen conflict stand accused of neglecting civilian safety.

The United Nations has blacklisted the Saudi-led coalition over the "killing and maiming" of children.

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