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Protests in Iran against Saudi-led air war on Yemen


iran protest against saudiThousands of people demonstrated Friday in Tehran to denounce Saudi-led air strikes on Shiite rebels in Yemen, where Iran is accused of meddling by Saudi Arabia.

The protests came as Iran rejected anew Saudi claims it was interfering in Yemen by backing the Huthi rebels, and accused Riyadh of seeking to absolve itself of responsibility in the war.

Protesters thronged the city centre chanting “Death to America”, “Death to Israel” and “Death to the Saudi (royal) family”, according to footage shown on state television.

They also denounced US support for the military operations, the report said.

Some protesters carried placards that read: “From Gaza to Yemen, stop killing children”, and state television described the protest as “massive”.

An effigy of King Salman of Saudi Arabia holding an American flag in one hand and an Israeli one in the other was also displayed at the rally.

In a statement published by Fars news agency, organisers of the protest criticised Riyadh, branding it “the capital that fosters radicalism and terrorism”.

They also denounced the Saudi royal family, which they described as “the most prominent manifestation of American Islam and the regime that depends the most on the Great Satan”, referring to United States.

Rallies were also organised in other major cities, according to media.

Tensions between Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran have soared following the launch in March of a Riyadh-led aerial campaign against Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.

The regional foes have long vied for influence in the Middle East, including in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and in confessionally-mixed countries such as Lebanon and Bahrain.

– ‘Unfounded analysis’ –

In southern Iran, meanwhile, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, said in a speech that the Saudi monarchy would meet a brutal end.

“The path that the ruling family in Saudi Arabia has taken is the same as the one that Saddam treaded,” it said in reference to executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Riyadh’s new Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Thursday criticised what he called Iran’s “negative” role in the Yemen conflict, and repeated claims Tehran was providing arms and funding to anti-government forces.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham dismissed the Saudi accusations.

Saudi allegations that Iran was arming the Huthis “were nothing but efforts to put the blame on others based on repeated and unfounded analysis,” she said, according to official IRNA news agency.

Iran has repeatedly denied sending weapons to the Huthis.

The Saudi-led coalition has been conducting air strikes on Yemen rebel positions since late March, and imposed an air and sea blockade on the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

The UN says the conflict has killed more than 1,400 people and wounded over 6,000, amid growing concerns over a mounting humanitarian crisis.

Riyadh proposed a five-day humanitarian ceasefire on Thursday, but later warned the Huthis had crossed a “red line” by targeting southern Saudi Arabia with cross-border shelling.

Meanwhile the Iranian Red Crescent said it would dispatch Saturday a boat carrying 2,500 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Yemen.

In late April, the Saudi air force prevented an Iranian plane, which Tehran said carried aid, from landing in Sanaa.

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