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Iran Denies Backing Yemeni Rebels


Iran Denies Backing Yemeni Rebels

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Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki denies his country is aiding rebel groups in Yemen. Reports of fighting along the Yemen-Saudi border continue, with conflicting accounts of who is attacking whom.

Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Yemen must mend its relations with Yemeni Shi'ites, a minority to which the Houthi rebels belong.

At a news conference in Tehran, Mottaki addressed Yemeni accusations Shi'ite Iran is supporting the Houthis, who have faced an all-out government assault since August.

In addition to denying the charge, the foreign minister countered with a warning to others bordering Yemen not to meddle in the country's internal affairs.

Fighting in northern Yemen between government troops and the Houthis, who accuse the government of oppression, has spilled over the border into Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan confirmed reports the Houthis had crossed into Saudi territory.

The prince said every bit of Saudi territory has been cleansed of the invaders. The government had accused the rebels of digging tunnels and trenches along the border to infiltrate the kingdom. But it rejected Houthi claims of capturing Saudi soldiers and military equipment.

The prince also confirmed that Saudi forces have been bombing Houthi positions, saying the military would not stop airstrikes until the rebels retreat tens of kilometers inside their border.

Access to the rugged mountains along the border has been severely limited, and wildly conflicting media coverage by regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran have only added to the confusion about what is happening.

The World Food Program said this week it has reached nearly 100,000 displaced Yemenis with food assistance since August. It says it is monitoring whether more people are fleeing the border area, and whether recent fighting will affect its supply routes through Saudi Arabia.