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Pakistan may join Saudi military coalition in Yemen

March 31, 2015

A Saudi-led coalition has pounded rebel targets for six days straight in Yemen. As Pakistan mulls joining the conflict, Iran has denied providing the rebels with weapons.

Kämpfe im Jemen
Image: Reuters/M. al-Sayaghi

A high-level delegation from Pakistan has left for Saudi Arabia to review whether to participate in the Kingdom's coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen, Pakistani state TV said on Tuesday. The group includes Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz.

Pakistan already has hundreds of soldiers in Saudi Arabia taking part in joint exercises and has voiced support for Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen but has not yet decided to take part.

The Saudi government approached Pakistan last week to provide troops for its operation in Yemen, but this has put Islamabad in a difficult position as it enjoys close ties with both Saudia Arabia and neighboring Iran, which is accused of backing the rebels.

Saudi coalition determined to press on

Overnight and into Tuesday morning, the coalition pounded rebel targets around the capital, Sanaa, which president Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi was forced to flee last month. Medical officials said the airstrikes had killed at least 26 people during the night. Saudi Arabia has sworn to continue the strikes until "legitimacy" is restored.

The operation "will continue to defend legitimacy in Yemen until it achieves its aims, and Yemen is returned to security, stability and unity", Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said in remarks published Tuesday.

Yemen's foreign minister also called for the airstrikes to be accompanied by an Arab ground intervention "as soon as possible," on Tuesday, according to news agency Reuters.

Iran denies proxy war

At the same time, Iranian state media said that their government had delivered 19 tons of aid to the rebels, including medical equipment and food, while Tehran continued to deny that the Houthis are acting as their proxy.

"Claims about the dispatch of weapons from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Yemen are completely fabricated and sheer lies," said the Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham.

es/lw (Reuters, AP)