by Compiled from Wire Services
Dec 16, 2016 12:00 am
Saudi Arabia's King Salman vowed on Wednesday to prevent external "interference" in neighboring Yemen, where it has been at war with Iranian-backed Shiite rebels since March 2015. He did not explicitly refer to the kingdom's regional rival Iran but Saudi officials have accused Tehran and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah of aiding rebels in Yemen.
"We will not accept any interference in the internal affairs of Yemen", King Salman said in an address opening a new session of the Shura Council, an appointed body which advises cabinet.
Salman said his country will neither accept that Yemen "becomes a base or a point of passage for whatever state or party to menace the security or the stability of the kingdom and of the region."
The king made no mention to the U.S. decision but said that Yemen's security is "the kingdom's security" and said that he will not permit anyone to interfere in Yemen's affairs. Saudi Arabia views Iran as its main regional rival, and the two nations support opposite sides in the wars in Yemen and Syria.
The televised speech at the start of a meeting of his top advisory council on Wednesday included no major policy changes despite regional upheaval and the economic challenge posed by low global oil prices.
International investigators last month said they had found a suspected "weapon pipeline" from Iran through Somalia to Yemen. British-based Conflict Armament Research, which is primarily funded by the European Union, analyzed photographs of weapons including assault rifles and rocket launchers to draw its conclusions. Tehran has repeatedly denied sending arms to Yemeni rebels.
Yemen's 20-month-old war has left more than 7,000 people dead and nearly 37,000 wounded, the World Health Organization announced in its latest toll update. As of Oct. 25, "more than 7,070 people have been killed and over 36,818 injured, according to health facility-based data," the WHO said in a statement late Sunday. Another 21 million people are in need of urgent health services, said the U.N. health agency.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September 2014, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee the country. A Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition has been conducting an extensive air campaign against the Houthis since March 2015 that has pushed the rebels out of southern Yemen. The U.N. says the conflict has left more than 19,000 people dead and displaced at least 3 million. Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Muslim countries, backed by the U.S., the U.K. and France, in the war in neighboring Yemen. The campaign, which is a campaign to restore the government ousted by the Iran-allied militia, is part of a larger assertive effort to prevent weapons from reaching Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies, who have overrun much of Yemen.