Rouhani says Iran’s regional status has never been stronger

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Updated 24 October 2017

Rouhani says Iran’s regional status has never been stronger

TEHRAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday Iran’s position in the Middle East had never been stronger but that the regime was at risk unless infighting between political factions was curbed.
“The greatness of the nation of Iran in the region is more than at any other time,” Rouhani said in a speech in Tehran, carried by the state broadcaster.
Rouhani did not directly respond to comments on Sunday by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who called on Iran-backed forces fighting militants in Iraq to “go home.”
But despite its powerful position in the region, Rouhani said Iran’s regime was under threat from fierce infighting between conservatives and moderates at home.
“We should not think that damaging one part of the system will strengthen the other part. No, the whole system will collapse,” he said.
There has been renewed criticism from hard-liners over the nuclear deal Rouhani’s administration signed with world powers.
On Sunday, state television read out in its entirety a letter by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from 2015 in which he warned against trusting the US and other signatories to the deal.
Although the accord was explicitly endorsed by Khamenei, hard-liners have consistently lambasted Rouhani for going too far in his efforts to rebuild ties with the West.
Those criticisms have become more pointed in recent days as US President Donald Trump has thrown the nuclear deal’s future into doubt, calling for renewed sanctions to rein in Iran’s build-up of influence, particularly in Iraq and Syria.
But Rouhani said his US counterpart was failing in his efforts to undermine the deal.
“Every day (Trump) says this agreement is the worst deal in history. As he put it, it is shameful for America. But still, he hasn’t been able to do anything with this agreement,” Rouhani said.

Houthi militias recruit children and force them to fight on the front lines - Al-Maliki

Updated 4 min 59 sec ago

Houthi militias recruit children and force them to fight on the front lines - Al-Maliki

RIYADH: Yemen’s Houthi militias are recruiting children by force and making them fight on the front lines, the Saudi-led coalition said on Monday.

Col. Turki Al-Maliki, the coalition spokesman, said the Iran-backed group are also using civilians as human shields in Hodeidah, where a battle is raging for control of the country’s largest port.

The claims came a day after Saudi air defenses intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis over the capital.

The attack brings the total number of ballistic missiles launched by the militia against Saudi Arabia to 155, Al-Maliki said at a press conference in Riyadh.

In Yemen, he said coalition forces were removing hundreds of thousands of land mines planted by the Houthis. 

Army engineering support teams were continuing demining operations in Hajjah, northwestern Yemen and more than 600,000 planted by the Houthis in Hodeidah have been removed so far, Al-Maliki said. 

Yemeni pro-government forces backed by the Arab coalition are fighting to seize the city from the Houthis. The capture of the city and its port - one of the main supply lines to the country, could prove to be pivotal in the outcome of the war. 

The coalition have called on the Houthis to withdraw from the city.  

UN envoy Martin Griffiths is due in Aden on Wednesday for talks with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee the capital Sanaa when the Houthis seized the city in 2014. 

Al-Maliki also gave an update on progress made by pro-government forces in other parts of the country.

The coalition spokesman said eight members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, were seized in an ambush in Saada -  the province in the north which is a Houthi stronghold.

They were captured on Monday along with a senior Houthi leader in the Al-Malahit district.

Al-Maliki said Yemeni forces had succeeded in controlling several villages in Al-Bayda province and that the Yemeni army had regained control of several positions in Harf Sufyan, west of Taiz.

“The Yemeni army, with the support of the Saudi-led coalition, continues its advances in Saada,” he added.

Al-Maliki said the Saudi-led coalition supports all the efforts of UN envoy Griffiths.

The Saudi coalition sent 12 trucks carrying aid to Hodeidah and the coalition will continue to allow relief vessels to enter the port, despite Houthi efforts to block aid access to civilians.