First Iran flight lands in Shiite-held Yemen capital
SANAA // The first direct flight from Iran to Yemen’s capital arrived on Sunday, as the Shiite rebels holding Sanaa formalise ties with the regional Shiite powerhouse.
The flight underscores how the rebels, known as Houthis, are strengthening their grip over state institutions and exercising sovereign power in Sanaa, even as the country’s president insists he is still in charge after fleeing to the south.
Yemeni airport, security and transportation officials greeted the Mahan Air flight, an Airbus 310 carrying Iranians including aid workers from the Iranian Red Crescent.
Senior Iranian diplomats were on hand to welcome the flight – the first between the two countries in many years. Iran’s deputy ambassador, Rasai Ebadi, said that the plane carried humanitarian aid including tents and 12 tons of medicine. He said more aid would come soon.
Western-backed president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, who fled last weekend escaping from house arrest by the Houthis in Sanaa, said the agreement was “illegal”, according to an aide.
“Those who signed it will be held accountable,” Mr Hadi said during a meeting with tribal chiefs in the southern city of Aden where he is now based.
The rebels signed an agreement with Iranian authorities in Tehran on Saturday to establish 14 direct flights per week between the two countries.
The rebels, who overran Sanaa last September, are widely believed to have support from Iran, a claim they frequently denied.
Over the past days, Gulf countries have moved to support Mr Hadi’s claim of legitimacy, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait moving their embassies to Aden.
* Associated Press, Agence France-Presse