Yemen Demands Explanation Over Arms Shipment

Yemen demands an explanation from Tehran over an Iran-linked arms shipment seized last month.

Elad Benari ,

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi
AFP photo

Yemen on Sunday demanded an explanation from Tehran over an Iran-linked arms shipment seized last month and rejected interference in its internal affairs, state news agency Saba reported.

"The Yemeni government will not allow interference in its internal affairs from any party, or for its territories to become a site for proxy wars," Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi was quoted by AFP as having told Iran's ambassador to Sanaa, Mahmud Hassan Zada.

The foreign minister also "demanded an explanation from Iran on the vessel," intercepted by Yemeni coast guard in coordination with the U.S. navy on January 23 in the Arabian Sea.

The Jihan II was carrying rockets and explosives, which authorities in Sanaa say came from Iran, although Tehran denies any involvement.

Yemen is still investigating the shipment whose eight-strong Yemeni crew are being questioned.

A security official last week said the vessel came from Iran and that the arms "were destined for the Huthi rebels in Saada," the stronghold of Shiite fighters in northern Yemen.

United Nations sanctions experts are investigating Sanaa's claims, according to New York-based diplomats.

The case was raised at a UN Security Council meeting last week, where UN special envoy Jamal Benomar called on the 15-member body to end "acts of obstruction" to the country's democratic transition.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has praised the Yemeni government for its "successful and significant interdiction" of the vessel and its decision to alert the UN Security Council.

"These weapons are clearly designed to cause significant damage with the highest possible number of casualties and are a threat to both Yemen and the region," Nuland said, according to AFP.