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U.A.E. Denies Yemen Rebels Fired Missile at Abu Dhabi Nuclear Plant

It is the second time this year that the Iran-aligned Houthis have said they fired a missile toward the United Arab Emirates since the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, began an air campaign against the rebels who had toppled the Gulf-allied president of Yemen, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in 2015.

A few months ago, the Houthis said they had “successfully” test-fired a missile toward Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, accuses Iran of trying to expand its influence into Arab countries, including Yemen, which shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, by aligning with the Houthis.

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The Barakah nuclear power plant being built in Abu Dhabi’s western desert. Credit Arun Girija/Emirates News Agency, via Associated Press

The coalition has targeted the Houthi rebels with deadly airstrikes. The Houthis, in turn, have launched dozens of ballistic missiles toward Saudi territories, inflicting little damage but causing anxiety among Gulf monarchs, who have suspected cooperation between the rebels and Iran and Hezbollah.

The rebels’ claim of an attack on a nuclear power plant also comes days after Israel said it had destroyed an Iranian base near the Syrian city of al-Qiswa, southwest of Damascus, on Friday.

It is unclear if there were any casualties, since the base had not been completed. There has been no official Iranian reaction. Israel also has not commented on the reports. But it previously acknowledged carrying out repeated air and missile strikes in Syria since the beginning of the war six years ago, to stop arms deliveries to Hezbollah.

On Sunday, an Iranian analyst, Hamidreza Taraghi, who has close ties to Iran’s leaders, denied any the country had links to the missile attack claimed by the Yemen rebels.

“We have nothing to do with this,” Mr. Taraghi said. “The Houthis are very capable of hitting targets without our assistance.”

But Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, and its allies insist that Iran has provided the Houthis with such weaponry and say that the rebels are taking commands from Tehran.

Iran has been careful not to provide a pretext to Saudi Arabia and its allies to increase pressure in the region. Local news agencies are told to refrain from writing provocative articles about Iran’s regional enemies.

In November, the most hard-line state newspaper, Kayhan, was closed for three days by the Iranian judiciary after it had ran a front-page headline, “Next Target Dubai,” a day after a Houthi missile attack on Saudi Arabia, accompanied by a picture of a missile launch.

The Yemen rebels’ claim on Sunday about striking a target in Abu Dhabi comes amid heavy fighting in Yemen’s capital, Sana, between the Shiite Houthi rebels and some of their former allies, who are led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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‘It’s a Slow Death’: The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis

Two and a half years of war and a crippling cholera outbreak have brought Yemen to the brink of collapse.

OPEN Graphic

Mr. Saleh, who stepped down in 2011 after a mass uprising against his 33 years in office, but he formed an alliance with the Houthis. Since then, fractures have emerged between the former leader and the rebels, exacerbating the crisis.

Houthi rebels have raided homes belonging to Mr. Saleh in Sana, along with those of his affiliates and close aides, posting pictures of the houses on social media. The rebels have also blocked television channels and other news outlets of Mr. Saleh General People’s Congress Party.

In a televised speech on Saturday, Mr. Saleh struck out at the rebels, blaming the Houthis’ “idiocy” for the war in Yemen and declaring that he was ready to turn a “new page” in ties with the coalition if it stopped the attacks on his country.

“I call upon the brothers in neighboring states and the alliance to stop their aggression, lift the siege, open the airports and allow food aid and the saving of the wounded and we will turn a new page by virtue of our neighborliness,” Mr. Saleh said.

In a statement carried by the Saudi-owned news outlet Al-Hadath, the coalition appeared to welcome Mr. Saleh’s remarks, saying it was “confident of the will of the leaders and sons” of Mr. Saleh’s political party to return to the fold.

Such a move by Mr. Saleh could pave the way to end the war, which has created one of the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe, unleashing a looming famine and outbreaks of cholera.

The apparent shift came as Mr. Saleh’s supporters battled Houthi fighters for a fourth day in the capital. A senior security officer at the Ministry of Interior in Sana said that about 80 people have died and at least 140 more have been injured since fighting broke out.

Aid groups expressed concerned that the drawn-out battles were deepening the misery of Yemen’s besieged population. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a post on Twitter that it was “greatly concerned at the upsurge of clashes” recently in Sana and the “negative implications on the protection of the civilian population” and lifesaving humanitarian programs.

The nuclear power plant, in Abu Dhabi’s far western desert, is being built by the Korea Electric Power Corporation near the border with Saudi Arabia and is scheduled to begin operating next year, the United Arab Emirates energy minister has said, according to The Associated Press.

Source: NYT > World

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