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Middle East
Iran 'ready to aid Yemeni security'
Tehran offers to help after warning Yemen's neighbours against interfering.
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2009 18:38 GMT
Fighting between government forces and the Houthis
 has intensified since August [AFP]

Iran has said that it is ready to help restore security in Yemen, which is currently engaged in a deadly conflict with an armed Houthi opposition group.

Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's foreign minister, made the offer on Wednesday, a day after Tehran warned Middle Eastern governments against interfering in the affairs of the the Arab Peninsula country.

"Iran is prepared to co-operate with the government of Yemen and other nations in order to restore security [in Yemen]," Mottaki said at a news conference.

Mottaki said that the fighting in north Yemen between government forces and the Houthis, who are from the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam, can be resolved by "collective efforts".

"It can restore security, peace and tranquility among the  people of Yemen and the whole region.

"Any measure in contrast of such approach will serve the enemies of Islamic and Arab states. We believe that any approach other than this will not serve the interests of regional nations."

Yemen later responded to the comments, rejecting any outside interference.

"We welcome what Mottaki affirmed about Iran's position towards Yemen's unity and stability, and Yemen reaffirms that it definitely rejects the interference in its internal affairs by any party," an official source in the Yemeni foreign ministry said.

Saudi offensive

The Houthis have been fighting for the last four years for a return to autonomous rule. The group has said that they have been economically and politically marginalised by the Yemeni government in Sana'a.

In depth

 Video: Iran warns against Yemen meddling
 Video: Saudi worried over Houthi fighters
 Video: Interview with Yemen's president
 Foreign states blamed in Yemen war
 Profile: Yemen's Houthi fighters
 Inside story: Yemen's future
Attacks by both sides have escalated since August and this week Saudi Arabia, Yemen's northern neighbour, launched an offensive against the Houthis on the countries' border. This followed the killing of a Saudi border guard in a cross-border raid by the Houthis.

Mottaki asserted that regional nations should "seriously hold back from intervening in Yemen's internal affairs".

"Those who pour oil on the fire must know that they will not be spared from the smoke that billows," he said.

Sana'a has previously accused Iran of supporting the Houthis, whereas one of the Houthis' complaints against the government is its closeness to the Saudis.

Hasham Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from north Yemen, said that Sana'a rejected the Iranian offer, saying "the fight with the Houthis is a local issue.

"That it is not a sectarian fight, the government is not siding with the Sunnis against the Shias. The government [said it] respects all the sects in Yemen ... but this is just a fight against a rebel group.

Offer criticised

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Hossein Shobakshi, a columnist with the Arabic Asharq Alawsat newspaper, was also critical of Iran's offer to help.

"It is a very odd situation that Iran threatens anybody that interferes in Yemeni affairs. This is an internal issue between the Yemenis. Saudi Arabia is protecting its borders.

"What business does Iran have stating what it has stated?

"But it also falls in sync with what Iran has been doing. Interfering in other countries' affairs - we have seen it in Jordan, Sudan, Palestine, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq - creating pockets of influence and trying to control its puppets in every part of the Arab world.

"There needs to be a collective effort to sit around a table, to, once and for all cut the cords aiding the Houthis and bet on an internal, stable form of government in Yemen because this will help everyone at the end of the day."

Ahelbarra also said that the Yemeni government on Wednesday claimed to have attacked northern Houthi targets, killing dozens of opposition fighters.

He said that Yemen has deployed the coast guard along the northwestern coast "because that area is extremely strategic and they have concerns that the Houthis might get shipments of weapons from arms smugglers or different parties to continue fighting the Yemeni government".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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