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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

UN panel finds further evidence of Iran link to Yemen missiles

The panel says it 'continues to believe' short-range ballistic missiles were transferred from Iran to Yemen

Saudi soldiers reveal the remains of missiles the Arab Coalition says are Iranian, to the media at the Armed Forces Club in Riyadh on March 26, 2018. AFP
Saudi soldiers reveal the remains of missiles the Arab Coalition says are Iranian, to the media at the Armed Forces Club in Riyadh on March 26, 2018. AFP

Yemen's Houthi rebels are still arming themselves with ballistic missiles and drones that "show characteristics similar" to Iranian-made weapons, a report by a United Nations panel of experts has found.

In a confidential report to the UN Security Council, the panel said it "continues to believe" that short-range ballistic missiles and other weaponry were transferred from Iran to Yemen after an arms embargo was imposed in 2015.

Iran has repeatedly denied it is arming the Houthis in Yemen, but the United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Tehran of providing military support to the rebels.

Recent inspections of weaponry including missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used by the Houthis "show characteristics similar to weapons systems known to be produced in the Islamic Republic of Iran", said the 125-page report.

During recent visits to Saudi Arabia, the panel was able to inspect debris from 10 missiles and found markings that suggest an Iranian origin, said the report, which spans January to July.

"It seems that despite the targeted arms embargo, the Houthis continue to have access to ballistic missiles and UAVs to continue and possibly intensify their campaign against targets in KSA [Saudi Arabia]," said the report.

The panel said there was a "high probability" that the missiles were manufactured outside of Yemen, shipped in sections to the country and reassembled by the Houthis.

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In a letter to the panel, Iran maintained that the missiles, which the Houthis call the Burkan, are a domestic upgrade of Scud missiles that were part of Yemen's arsenal before the start of the war.

The experts are also investigating information that the Houthis received from Iran a monthly donation of fuel valued at $30 million (Dh110m). Iran has denied providing any financial support to the Houthis.

During the inspections of the missile debris, the experts mandated by the council also found power converters produced by a Japanese company and Cyrillic markings on components that suggested a Russian link.

The investigation of those findings continues.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council in a separate report in June that some components from five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia were manufactured in Iran but that UN officials were unable to determine when they were shipped to Yemen.

The Houthis are accused of widespread and indiscriminate use of landmines.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to push back the Houthis and restore the internationally recognised government to power.

The UN considers the conflict, which has left nearly 10,000 people dead in Yemen, to be the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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