Russia: US hasn't made a case for new action against Iran

2018-02-01 22:18
Supporters of Shi'ite Houthi rebels attend a rally in Sanaa on December 5. (Hani Mohammed, AP)

Supporters of Shi'ite Houthi rebels attend a rally in Sanaa on December 5. (Hani Mohammed, AP)

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New York - Russia's UN ambassador said on Wednesday the US has not made a case for new Security Council action against Iran with parts of missiles the Trump administration claims were supplied by Tehran to Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said in comments released by Russia's UN Mission that it was unclear whether missile parts that council members were taken to see in Washington on Monday were Iranian or violated a 2015 arms embargo on Yemen.

The Trump administration maintains that fragments from missiles recovered in Saudi Arabia after being launched from Yemen by the Houthis contain markings proving they were Iranian-made, though some security experts have questioned whether the evidence is fool proof.

READ 14 soldiers killed in Yemen suicide attack: Army official

Nebenzia said Iran "is vehemently denying it is supplying anything to Yemen".

The Arab world's poorest country - Yemen - is engulfed in a conflict that many see as a proxy war between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia that has killed more than 10 000 civilians, displaced two million people, and left seven million on the brink of famine.

Bloody stalemate

Iranian-backed Houthi Shi'ite rebels and forces allied to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh swept into the capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and control much of northern Yemen.

They have been locked in a bloody stalemate for most of the last three years with a Saudi-led coalition, backed by the US, which supports Yemen's internationally recognised President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. It launched an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015.

"Yemen hosts a pile of weapons from the old days… [with] many countries competing to supply weapons to Yemen during the time of President Saleh. So I cannot give you anything conclusive. I am not an expert to judge," Nebenzia said.

Saleh, who was president in 1990 - 2012, was killed by the Houthis in December when he was about to switch support to the coalition.

READ: Trump says 'time for change' in Iran

UN experts monitoring sanctions against Yemen said in a recent report that Iran violated a UN arms embargo by directly or indirectly providing missiles and drones to the Houthis.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley has raised the possibility of new UN action against Iran.

Nebenzia said he has only heard "vague talk of action" and would wait to see what is proposed.

Asked whether a case had been made for new action at the UN against Iran, he replied: "No."

Kazakhstan's UN ambassador, Kairat Umarov, the current Security Council president, told reporters on Wednesday that he also had questions after viewing the missile fragments.

"Unfortunately, we don't know at this point in time how this weaponry was delivered to Yemen," he said, adding that for some time there have been different governments as well as "commercial people who like to send weaponry".

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