Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 2 July 2020

Arab Coalition seizes new Iranian missile shipment off Yemen coast

Officials say the shipment was being sent from Iran to Houthi rebels

A shipment of Iranian missiles destined for the Houthi rebels was seized by the Arab Coalition off the Yemeni coast, officials said on Monday.

Saudi representatives of the Coalition revealed details about the shipment in a conference hosted by broadcaster Al Arabiya, in which they displayed footage and images of the operation.

They said a vessel carrying Iranian weapons was intercepted 12 days ago off the coast of Yemen.

Al Arabiya English showed images of the weapons and quoted a Coalition official as saying the wooden vessel was found off the coast of the Yemeni city of Mocha.

The find shows Iran is contravening a UN resolution that prohibits arms transfers to the Houthi rebels, who overran the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

This week calls intensified for the UN to renew a 13-year arms embargo, due to expire in October, on Iran.

“Iran is seeking, despite the embargo, to export weapons to terrorist groups,” the Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al Jubeir, told the conference.

“Things will turn from bad to worse,” if the embargo is not extended, Mr Al Jubeir said.

He said Saudi Arabia “strongly backs” US President Donald Trump’s efforts in pressing Iran to change its behaviour, including Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, and imposing crippling sanctions on the regime.

The arms embargo has so far stopped Iran from buying fighter jets, tanks, warships and other weaponry, but has failed to stop it smuggling weapons into war zones.

The US special envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, addressed the conference, saying he was in the region “to emphasise our bilateral relations and the diplomatic moves” to restrain Iran.

Mr Hook said if the UN arms embargo against Iran were lifted, Tehran would be able to further develop its military capabilities and threaten maritime navigation in the Gulf.

He said lifting the embargo would also encourage an “arms race” in the region.

The UN said this month that it had determined Iran was the source for items in two arms shipments seized by the US, and for debris left by attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil installations and an international airport last year.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said some of the items seized by the US in November 2019 and February 2020 "were identical or similar" to those found after the cruise missiles and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2019.

Mr Al Jubeir called the five-year Yemeni war a tragedy and said Saudi humanitarian aid to the country totalled $14 billion (Dh51.42bn) so far.

“I dont remember anything reported about Iran even laying a stone to build a school in Yemen,” he said.

Iran on Monday issued anl arrest warrant against Mr Trump and asked global crime agency Interpol for help.

Mr Hook said the move was propaganda that no one would take seriously.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said on Monday that the warrant was issued in response to the killing of top general Qassem Suleimani by the US in January.

Updated: June 29, 2020 11:49 PM

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