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First Iran flight lands in Shiite-held Yemen capital

SANAA: A first Iranian flight landed in the Yemeni capital on Sunday, a day after officials from the Shiite militia-controlled city signed an aviation agreement with Tehran.

The Mahan Air plane arrived in Sanaa carrying a team from the Iranian Red Crescent and medical aid, an aviation official told AFP.

Senior Iranian diplomats were on hand to welcome the flight — the first between the two countries in many years.

Yemen’s official Saba news agency, which is controlled by the Shiite militiamen who overran Sanaa in September, said that under the deal Iran Mahan Air and Yemenia would operate 14 flights each a week.

Western-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled last weekend an effective house arrest by the Huthis in Sanaa, slammed the agreement as “illegal,” according to an aide.

“Those who signed it will be held accountable,” Hadi said during a meeting with tribal chiefs in the southern city of Aden where he is now based.

Tehran has repeatedly been accused of backing the Huthi militia.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that “critical” support of the militia by Shiite-dominated Iran “contributed” to the collapse of Yemen’s government.

Iran rejected Kerry’s “blame game,” insisting that foreign intervention in Yemen would “further complicate the situation.”

The Huthis, who have long clashed with central authorities, descended from their power base in northern Yemen to seize Sanaa in September.

After moves to expand into southern and central Yemen were checked by fierce resistance from Al-Qaeda and from Sunni tribesmen, the militia grabbed the seats of power in Sanaa in February. (AFP)

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