Last Updated: Wed Nov 03, 2010 13:00 pm (KSA) 10:00 am (GMT)

Saudi to bomb rebels until they retreat: minister

Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan also said four soldiers still missing
Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan also said four soldiers still missing

Saudi Arabia will continue its air strikes against Yemeni rebels until they move back from the two countries' frontier, Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan said on Tuesday, as Iran warned regional powers of interferring in the Yemeni affairs.

"We are not going to stop the bombing until the Houthis (rebels) retreat tens of kilometers (miles) inside their border," Khaled said on a visit to Saudi troops in southwestern Jizan province.

He appeared to confirm reports by Shiite Zaidi rebels, also known as Houthis that Saudi warplanes continued to pummel them inside Yemen, a week after a rebel raid into Saudi territory sparked heavy retaliatory air and ground bombardment of Houthi positions.

 We are not going to stop the bombing until the Houthis retreat tens of kilometers inside their border 
Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan

Prince Khaled, meanwhile, said that four Saudi soldiers were still missing, but did not comment on a Houthi video posted on the Internet of a man they said was a captured Saudi soldier.

The video showed a man in military uniform with facial wounds and an apparent leg injury receiving medical attention. It identified him as Staff Sergeant Ahmad Abdullah al-Omari.

They also posted a picture of a military identity card carrying Omari's name but the photograph alongside it showed little resemblance to the man in the video.

In the meantime, one of the Saudi soldiers reported missing returned to the kingdom on Monday with important maps and other military documents.

The Saudi forces said they have also picked up communications in Farsi among the rebels.

Iran warns, GCC and Syria supports

 Countries of the region must seriously hold back from intervening in Yemen's internal affairs. Those who pour oil on the fire must know that they will not be spared from the smoke that billows 
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned regional powers against intervention in Yemen -- without identifying any country by name.

"Countries of the region must seriously hold back from intervening in Yemen's internal affairs. Those who pour oil on the fire must know that they will not be spared from the smoke that billows," Mottaki said.

Yemen, which has accused Iran of supporting the rebels, announced in October that it had captured five Iranians attempting to smuggle a boatload of weapons to them.

Tehran denies helping the rebels, and a Saudi source has told AFP there is no evidence of active Iranian involvement.

Syria and Saudi Arabia's partners in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) -- which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- meanwhile voiced support for Riyadh.

"The GCC is always ready to stand alongside Saudi Arabia in the face of dangers and aggressions," Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah said at a GCC ministerial meeting in Doha.

In Damascus, a government official quoted by state-run SANA news agency said: "Syria supports the legitimate right of the kingdom to defend its sovereignty and the integrity of its territory."

Regaining control

 Syria supports the legitimate right of the kingdom to defend its sovereignty and the integrity of its territory 
Syrian government official

The kingdom said on Sunday it had regained control of territory seized by the rebels.

The world's top oil exporter has become increasingly anxious about instability in Yemen, which, as well as the Shiite insurgency in the north, faces separatist sentiment in the south and a growing threat from resurgent al-Qaeda fighters.

In the past few weeks Houthi rebels have accused Saudi Arabia of allowing Yemeni forces to use its territory as a base to launch attacks against them, but the kingdom has denied the allegation.

The rebels, referred to as Houthis after the clan of their leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, first took up arms against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government in 2004, citing political, economic and religious marginalization by the Western-backed administration.

The conflict intensified in August when Yemen's army launched Operation Scorched Earth to crush the rebels.

Aid groups, which have been given limited access to the northern provinces, say up to 150,000 people have fled their homes since 2004.

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