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Kerry Praises Saudi-Led Air Strikes In Yemen

March 26, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has praised military action against Yemen's Huthi rebels in a phone call with Gulf Arab foreign ministers, while Iran and Iraq condemned the air strikes.

An unnamed senior official at the State Department was quoted as saying on March 26 that Kerry commended the work of a Saudi-led coalition 'taking military action against the Huthis.'

Kerry also noted the U.S. support for the efforts, 'including intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and advisory and logistical support for strikes against Huthi targets,' the official said.

Saudi officials said the Sunni-led kingdom and its allies launched air strikes against the Shi'ite rebels 'to protect and defend the legitimate government' of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, said the assaults had been launched in response to a request by Hadi.

Reports said huge explosions were heard in Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as warplanes pounded an air base adjacent to the international airport and other locations. At least 14 people were reportedly killed in Sanaa.

The air strikes came hours later after Hadi, a close U.S. ally, reportedly fled on March 25 after rebel fighters neared his refuge in the southern city of Aden.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported that Hadi left Aden under Saudi Arabia's protection for Egypt to attend an Arab League summit.

Saudi media said the kingdom had deployed 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers, and naval units in Operation Decisive Storm.

All civilian flights were halted at seven Saudi airports in the border region.

Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed Saudi source familiar with defense issues as saying a ground force may be needed in addition to the air campaign to 'restore order' in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition includes several Gulf countries as well as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan.

Pakistan said it was examining a Saudi request to take part but in the meantime Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif any threat to Saudi Arabia's integrity would evoke a 'strong response' from Pakistan.

The Arab League pledged full support for the campaign.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told France 24 television that Turkey "may consider providing logistical support based on the evolution of the situation."

'Iran and the terrorist groups must withdraw from Yemen,' he added.

Erdogan went on to say Iran was trying to chase the Islamic State from the region "only to take its place.'

Britain also expressed support for the Saudi military intervention, saying recent Huthi actions were a sign of the rebels' 'disregard for the political process.'

The Iran-backed rebels have made rapid gains in recent months, forcing Hadi to flee Sanaa.

The rebels now control much of the country's north and several southern provinces.

Tehran condemned the air strikes, saying it was a 'dangerous step' that will worsen the crisis in the Arabian Peninsula nation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tehran believed 'these military actions can only plunge the region further into turmoil and will have no benefit for any of the countries who enter into such actions.'

He Iran has done its 'utmost to try to limit and control this crisis' in Yemen.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said the military intervention in Yemeni affairs "leads to complicating the situation further,' it said in a statement.

'Our stance is to reject the use of force and to call on all Yemeni sides to put their differences behind through serious discussion,' the statement added.

Lebanon's Iran-backed Hizballah militant group called on Saudi Arabia to 'immediately stop the aggression'

A spokesman for the Huthis told Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera that the Saudi-led operation was a 'declaration of war.'

The Huthis' advance had raised fears in the predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia that the Shi'ite minority rebels would seize control of its Sunni-majority neighbor, Yemen, and take it into the orbit of Shi'ite Iran.

Iran denies allegations it is providing money and training to the rebels.

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia said it planned to beef up security at its borders and around oil and industrial facilities.

OPEC member Kuwait said it raised security around its oil facilities inside and outside the country as a precautionary measure.

The air strikes triggered oil prices jump more than 5 percent in Asian trade on March 26 amid fears of massive confrontation in a region that pumps a quarter of the world's 92 billion barrels per day of crude supplies.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/iran-condemns-saudi-air-strikes-in-yemen/26921584.html

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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