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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Yemen rebel leader denies Iran, Libya backing

DUBAI, UAE - A Yemeni rebel leader has rejected government accusations that rebels are receiving Iranian and Libyan support.

"These are baseless allegations used repeatedly since the (1979) Islamic revolution in Iran," Yahya al-Houthi told Al Arabiya television in remarks aired on Saturday. The exiled brother of rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi was referring to accusations by a Yemeni ruling party official that Libya and Iranian religious institutions were backing the Shi'ite Muslim rebels fighting government forces.

At least 105 soldiers and 90 rebels have died this year in sporadic clashes, according to government officials who say the rebels want to install religious rule.

Houthi also denied the rebels received Libyan support and said Libya had tried only to mediate in the conflict.

"The government is equating us with terrorists who kidnap tourists and blow up ships ... but they have failed to convince the (Western) coalition countries to label us as terrorists," said Houthi, speaking from Berlin.

"Our people are just defending themselves and their homes."

In March 2006, Yemen freed more than 600 Shi'ite rebels as part of an amnesty to end two years of clashes.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Houthi's supporters are not linked to al Qaeda.
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