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Iran says it opposed Yemen air strikes from start

TEHRAN: Iran said on Wednesday that it had held regional consultations “from the first hours” of Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen to try to negotiate an end to the operation.

“We were against the military action,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said after the coalition announced a halt to the nearly one-month campaign against rebels whom Iran is accused of backing.

“We saw the solution for Yemen in negotiations so based on that we started dialogue and consultations with different countries,” she added.

She said the decision announced late Tuesday to halt the strikes “was inevitable for analysts who follow the events” in Yemen.

The coalition left open the option of resuming air raids if necessary and just hours later Saudi-led warplanes were reported to have hit rebels in Yemen’s third city Taez after they seized an army base.

Tehran earlier welcomed the halt to the bombing as a “step forward” towards a peaceful solution to the conflict between Shiite rebels and forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Iran, the Shiite rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, has denied accusations by the coalition and its allies of arming the rebels.

As part of the diplomatic efforts, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif travelled to Oman and Pakistan, two countries close to Riyadh that did not participate in the coalition.

Iran also tried to win the support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he visited Tehran in early April. Ankara backed the coalition but did not participate in the strikes.

Iran also presented to the UN a peace plan for Yemen calling for a ceasefire followed by foreign-mediated negotiations.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani questioned what had been achieved by the air strikes “except that more than 1,000 people died, thousands were injured, the infrastructure was destroyed and (the rebels) took control of several provinces”, in remarks quoted by Fars news agency. (AFP)

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