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Iran protests over Yemen aid flights ‘blocked by Saudi’

TEHRAN: Iran summoned the Saudi envoy Friday to protest after his country’s warplanes allegedly turned back humanitarian aid flights headed for war-torn Yemen, whose airspace is controlled by a Saudi-led coalition.

Aboard the flights were women and children who had been treated in Iran after being wounded in “terrorist” attacks before the coalition launched its air campaign against Tehran-backed rebels in Yemen last month, state news agency IRNA said.

The Iranian Red Crescent planes were also carrying “humanitarian aid and medicine”, the report said.

The Saudi charge d’affaires in Tehran “was summoned to the foreign ministry on Friday evening and Iran’s objection was announced to him”, it said.

A senior Iranian official was quoted as saying the Red Crescent had obtained the necessary clearances to fly from Oman to Yemen, and had coordinated fully with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent.

“But unfortunately, at both times, Saudi fighters, by getting close to them, forced the planes to return.”

On Tuesday, the coalition declared the first phase of its operations against the Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies in Yemen was over, but there has still been no end to air strikes.

The rebels have demanded a complete halt to the raids as a condition for UN-sponsored peace talks.

Iran is a key ally of the Huthis, but vehemently denies arming them.

US Navy vessels are patrolling the waters off Yemen to enforce a UN-imposed arms embargo on the rebels, and a US official said Thursday that an Iranian naval convoy suspected of carrying weapons to Yemen had turned back.  -AFP

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