SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen said on Saturday it had recalled its ambassadors to Iran and Libya over what it sees as their support for Shi’ite Muslim rebels involved in bloody clashes with government forces.
Yemeni officials have accused Iran and Libya of supporting the rebels led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, who are based in the northern province of Saada. The two countries have denied the allegation.
“The government will consult with the two ambassadors on the developments in Saada,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told Reuters.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes due to the clashes between the Zaydi Shi’ite rebels and government forces.
A rebel leader denied in March that the rebels were receiving Iranian or Libyan support.
The government of Sunni-dominated Yemen accuses the rebels of seeking to oust its secular administration and install Islamist rule. The rebels say they are defending their villages against what they call government aggression.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the army in January to crack down on Houthi and his group, whom the government says preaches violence against the United States.
The conflict has raged on and off since 2004. The flare-up began when the rebels attacked government forces who set up a checkpoint deeper inside Saada.
Qirbi said on Tuesday the government would consider talks with the rebels if they lay down their guns first.
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the September 11 attacks on the United States. Houthi’s supporters are not linked to al Qaeda.