by Compiled from Wire Services
Mar 01, 2015 12:00 am
Yemen and Iran signed a civil aviation deal on Saturday, Yemeni state news agency SABA reported, a move that may reflect Tehran's support for the Shiite Muslim militia that now controls Sanaa. The deal signed in Tehran by the aviation authorities of both countries allows Yemen and Iran each to fly up to 14 flights a week in both directions, SABA said. The websites of the Iranian and Yemeni national airlines indicated there were currently no flights between the two. The Shiite Muslim Houthi militia seized Yemen's capital in September, which eventually led President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee this month to the port city of Aden where he is seeking to set up a rival power center.
Sunni countries in the Gulf fear that events in Yemen show Shiite power Iran asserting its influence, something Tehran denies. U.S. officials have also expressed concern that the rule of the resolutely anti-American Houthis will harm their counter-terrorism efforts in a country that has one of the most active branches of the militant group al-Qaida.
Meanwhile, the first direct flight from Iran to the rebel-held Yemeni capital has arrived, as the country's Shiite rebels formalize ties with the regional Shiite powerhouse. Yemeni airport, security and transportation officials greeted the flight Sunday, an Airbus 310 carrying Iranians including aid workers from the Iranian Red Crescent. The rebels, who overran the capital, Sanaa, last September, are widely believed to have support from Iran, a claim they frequently denied.
Hadi said Sunday that capital Sanaa is "occupied" by the Shiite Houthi movement, describing the recent Houthi takeover of government as a "coup." Hadi's statements came during a speech he gave in the southern city of Aden, where he met tribal leaders and politicians from the southern provinces of Maarib, Al-Jawf and Al-Bayda. "Capital Sanaa is occupied by the Houthis, who have recently orchestrated a coup that we are going to confront," Hadi said. "I didn't leave Sanaa to announce the separation of the south, but to maintain the unity it achieved in 1990," he said.
Yemen has remained in a state of chaos since last September, when the Shiite Houthi militant group took over capital Sanaa, from which it has since sought to extend its control to other parts of the country as well.
Upon his arrival in Aden, Hadi dismissed as "null" and "illegitimate" all recently-issued Houthi decrees. He also wrote to Yemen's parliament, withdrawing a resignation he had tendered earlier. Earlier, the Houthis issued what it described as a constitutional declaration, dissolving parliament and establishing a 551-member transitional council. The declaration, however, was rejected by most of Yemen's political forces-along with some neighboring Gulf countries-which described it as a coup against constitutional legitimacy.