US President Barack Obama has warned Iran against shipping weapons to Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. The warning comes as the Saudi-led coalition ended its month-long campaign of airstrikes targeting the rebels.
Nine Iranian ships are reportedly headed toward Yemen, possibly bearing supplies for Houthi rebels.
An Iranian delivery of supplies to the Houthis would be a violation of a UN Security Council resolution, and the US president warned Iran against shipping weapons to the rebels.
"What we've said to [Iran] is that 'if there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that's a problem.' And we're not sending them obscure messages - we send them very direct messages about it," Obama said Tuesday in a televised interview.
Obama also said that the primary role of a US aircraft carrier heading toward Yemeni waters is to protect freedom of navigation.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt will join eight other navy ships in the waters off the Yemeni coast.
Saudi Arabia ends campaign
Obama's warning came after Saudi Arabia announced the end of its month-long campaign of airstrikes targeting the rebels, news of which was greeted in Washington.
"The United States welcomes today's announcement by the government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners of the conclusion of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen," said Alistair Baskey, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
Saudi Arabia said the operation had "achieved its goals...[including] removing the threat to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, especially in terms of heavy weapons."
A new phase, dubbed "Operation Restoring Hope" is now underway, Saudi state news agency SPA reported. The new campaign will focus on "the political process that will lead to a stable and secure future for Yemen."
Saudi spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said, however, that the coalition would continue to monitor Houthi rebel movements and that the naval blockade on Yemen would remain in place.
"The coalition will continue to prevent the Houthi militias from moving or undertaking any operations inside Yemen," Asseri said.
The airstrikes began on March 26, after Houthi rebels forced Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the latest death toll from fighting in Yemen to be at 944. The UN health agency warned that Yemen's health care services were on the brink of collapse, with life-saving medicines and key medical supplies running out.
The impoverished country on the Arab peninsula was plunged into chaos last year when the Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa.
bw/cmk (AP, Reuters, AFP)