Iran's Zarif urges immediate humanitarian help in Yemen

Iran's Zarif urges immediate humanitarian help in Yemen
An image grab taken from an AFP video shows armed militiamen loyal to Yemen's fugitive President Abderabbo Mansour Hadi firing from a tank during clashes with Shiite Huthi rebels in the southern Yemeni city of Taez on April 20, 2015.

Iran's foreign minister on Wednesday welcomed an announcement by Saudi Arabia of an end to a military operation against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, saying there should now be urgent humanitarian help and political talks to resolve the conflict.

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday it was ending a month-long campaign of air strikes against the Houthi rebels who seized large areas of Yemen. Riyadh also said it would back a political solution to bring peace to its war-damaged neighbour.

Iran, which has backed the Houthis, had repeatedly said it would support a political solution to restore peace in Yemen. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Saudi move was "positive" and urged talks and the formation of a new government.

"Positive developments in Yemen should be followed by urgent humanitarian assistance, intra-Yemeni dialogue and broad-based govt (government). Ready to help," Zarif said in a message on his Twitter account.

The United States and Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia have accused Shi'ite-dominated Iran of supporting the Houthis. Iran denies the claim.

Saudi Arabia said a new phase called "Operation Restoring Hope" was beginning, which would combine political, diplomatic and military action but would focus on "the political process that will lead to a stable and secure future for Yemen".

Saudi spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said the alliance may still target Houthis. "The coalition will continue to prevent the Houthi militias from moving or undertaking any operations inside Yemen," he told reporters in Riyadh on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Iran's foreign ministry on Tuesday said "a halt to killing innocent and defenceless people is absolutely a step forward", Iranian media reported.

Yemen is home to one of the most lethal branches of al Qaeda, sheltering in tribal regions and targeted for years by US drone strikes.

The United Nations said about 150,000 people had been driven from their homes by three weeks of air strikes and ground fighting, with more than 750 people killed.

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