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Iran foreign minister rejects U.S. claim of arming Houthi rebels in Yemen

By Andrew V. Pestano
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, seen here during a press conference in Tehran, on Friday rejected accusations made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Iran has sent weapons to Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen's civil war. File photo by Maryam Rahmanian/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/8a238afd3f5da415ccfe2a5d9cf92853/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, seen here during a press conference in Tehran, on Friday rejected accusations made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Iran has sent weapons to Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen's civil war. File photo by Maryam Rahmanian/UPI | License Photo

TEHRAN, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's accusations that Iran delivered weapons to Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen's civil war.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly stated that its military power has never been a threat to any state for being purely defensive," Zarif said on Friday. "It is high time the U.S. government learned from its egregious errors in Syria and Iraq by realizing existing facts and realities."

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More than 6,400 people have died, nearly half of them civilians, since a coalition led by Saudi Arabia -- and supported by the United States and Britain -- began a military campaign against Houthi militants in March 2015 after the rebels seized the city of Sanaa and began to advance to Aden to overthrow the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Zarif went on to place blame on the United States for the killing of civilians during the conflict.

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"U.S. has engaged itself in Saudi's inhumane child-killing war against innocent people of Yemen ... no doubt, U.S. now has to be responsible for all the inhumane crimes," Zarif added. "Certainly Mr. Kerry knows, better than everyone, that the Saudis have tried hard to annul all efforts made for establishing ceasefire in Yemen."

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The United States government has been vague about its role in Yemen, referring only to providing "targeting assistance" in the Saudi bombing campaign. But Human Rights Watch has reported that U.S. bombs are being used in aerial bombings that are hitting civilian targets, including a marketplace in Mastaba in northwestern Yemen in March 2016 that killed 97 civilians.

The United Nations expressed concern over the resumption of airstrikes earlier this month.

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"The secretary-general is deeply concerned about reports of increased fighting between various parties in Hajjah, Saada and Sanaa provinces including over the past few days," Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said in a statement. "The reported escalation in fighting exacerbates the already dire humanitarian and human rights situation and the suffering of the Yemeni people."

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