NEW YORK // Yemeni president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi vowed at the United Nations on Friday to “extract Yemen from the claws of Iran” as he accused Tehran of impeding peace by intervening in the country.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition has been fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015 in a bid to restore the internationally-backed president to power after rebels took over the capital Sanaa, made gains in other provinces and forced Mr Hadi’s government to flee into exile.
Saudi Arabia sees Iran as the paramount threat to the Middle East’s stability because of its support for Shiite militias that Riyadh says have inflamed sectarian violence.
Tehran views the Houthis as the legitimate authority in Yemen but denies accusations by Saudi Arabia and Yemen that it supplies the rebels with weapons.
“We shall extract Yemen from the claws of Iran, we shall raise the Yemeni flag over every foot of our precious Yemeni soil and we will lay the foundation for a just federal state,” Mr Hadi said in a speech at the annual United Nations General Assembly.
Months of UN-sponsored talks to try to end the fighting that has killed more than 10,000 people collapsed in August and the Houthi movement and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh resumed shelling into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
“Iran impedes all measures that we are taking by a multitude of actions and interventions,” Mr Hadi said.
“We tell the whole world in very clear terms that extremism and sectarian terrorism sponsored by Iran in the region has created and will create a terrorism counter to that,” he said.
“Terrorism feeds on the other terrorism.”
Mr Hadi defended his move to appoint a new central bank governor and shift the bank’s headquarters from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to the southern port city of Aden, the main foothold of fighters loyal to the president.
“We decided to move the central bank to the interim capital, Aden, in order to save what we could save so that the bank would not reach zero reserves,” he said.
“We call for the support of the free world and its monetary institutions in order to stand by us … and save the Yemeni economy.”
Arab central bank governors said on Friday that they supported the shifting of the central bank.
The central bank has been the last bastion of the impoverished country’s financial system in the civil war and is effectively running the economy, according to central bank officials and diplomats.
The government has accused the Houthis of squandering about US$4 billion (Dh14.7bn) on the war effort from central bank reserves. The Houthis have claimed that the funds were used to finance imports of food and medicine.
A recent report by a UN panel of experts said the Houthis were diverting about US$100 million from the central bank per month.
Mr Hadi met Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, on the sidelines of the UN assembly on Thursday to discuss developments in Yemen, including the humanitarian and economic situation and the challenges facing efforts to push the political process forward.
Sheikh Abdullah reiterated the UAE’s backing for Yemen’s legitimate government and sovereignty as well as its rejection of interference in the country’s internal affairs, the state news agency Wam reported.
President Hadi thanked the UAE for its generous political and humanitarian support for his country and people.
The UAE has played a leading role in the Saudi-led coalition backing Mr Hadi and has provided military support as well as aid to civilians affected by the war.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday signed an agreement in New Yourk with the UN World Food Programme to provide aid to more than 107,000 Yemenis over four months at a cost of Dh22m.
The UAE has provided Dh4.34bn worth of foreign assistance to Yemen between April 2015 and July this year.
* Reuters with additional reporting from Agence France-Presse