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Iran blames Yemen president for crisis as protests hit Sanaa

Protests calling for ex-President Saleh's son to become Yemen's president hit the capital as Iran warns of 'civil war'
A Yemeni woman holds up a picture of ex-president's son, who some say should become next president (AFP)

Iran warned Tuesday of possible "disintegration or civil war" in Yemen, criticising President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi for leaving the capital Sanaa and basing himself in the southern city of Aden.

The comments, by deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, came after Gulf monarchies agreed to Hadi's request to host talks in Riyadh aimed at pulling Yemen out of political crisis.

Abdollahian told the ISNA news agency: "Sanaa is the official and historical capital of Yemen and those in Aden who back disintegration or civil war are responsible for the consequences.

"Yemen's outgoing president would have done better to stay in Sanaa and keep to his resignation letter and not lead the country into crisis."

Iran, a Shiite regional power, is accused of having contributed to the seizure of power in Sanaa by Houthi Shiite militias, although Tehran has rejected accusations of interference.

Iran "supports the unity, independence and a wide national dialogue in Yemen", Abdollahian said.

Hadi tendered his resignation to parliament in January, but the body never convened again as it was dissolved by the Houthis in February in what many have called a "coup".

Hadi then withdrew his resignation after escaping to Aden last month, saying he had quit under duress from the Houthis.

The politician declared Aden his "capital" last week, and was later joined there by Yemen's Defence Minister General Mahmoud Subaihi, who fled Houthi-controlled Sanaa on Sunday in an escape bid that left one of his guards dead.

Aden, considered the capital by southern secessionists, was the scene on Tuesday of the assassination of a senior intelligence officer.

Jamal Hadi was gunned down in front of his home on Tuesday afternoon by unknown militants, although some identified the gunmen as coming from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Protests call for Saleh's son to become president

Protesters took to the streets of Sanaa on Tuesday to call for the son of former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to become the country's president president.

 
Soldiers from Yemen's national army were seen at the demonstration on Tuesday.
Translation: A soldier raises pictures of Ahmed (son of former president) Ali Saleh and Abdel Malik al-Houthi during protest in Sanaa to demand that Saleh's son stand for president
 
Ahmed Ali Saleh is the eldest son of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former strongman president who ruled for decades before being toppled by a popular uprising in 2012.
 
Saleh currently serves as Yemen's ambassador to the UAE and was previously head of the Republican Guard, an elite unit of the Yemeni Army.
 
Translation: Suddenly, and strangely, pictures of Ahmed Ali, son of the former president, are filling the streets of Sanaa on boards put up to propose him as a candidate for president!
 
Ahmed Ali Saleh lost his post as head of the Republican Guard in 2012 during efforts to distance relatives of Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.
 
 
Despite controversy, Ali has been able to mobilise support both inside Yemen and abroad.
 
Translation: Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh is the solution
 
As pro-Ahmed Ali protesters took to the streets of Sanaa, however, demonstrators in Taiz, some 260 kilometres south, burned images of the ambassador.
 
During the anti-government protests of 2011, 15 demonstrators were killed in Taiz and 260 were injured. Many blame Ahmed Ali for violations carried out by his troops in the city.
 

Riyadh talks

As protesters took to the streets of Yemen, Saudi Arabia said it would host negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the political deadlock that has gripped its poorer neighbour for months.

Hadi asked the Gulf countries to host talks after failing to reach agreement with the militia and their backers on a venue inside Yemen.

The six Sunni-ruled Gulf states are deeply suspicious of the Houthis, fearing they will take Yemen into Iran's orbit.

UN-brokered reconciliation talks, which had been taking place in Sanaa, broke down after Hadi's flight to Aden.

Several Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have moved their embassies to Aden after an exodus of foreign diplomats from Sanaa in February over security concerns.