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Iran prepared to send advisers to 'support' Yemen's Houthis

Deputy head of Iran's armed forces says country will 'help the Yemeni people' as it has done in Syria
Iranian soldiers pose with bayonets during a military parade (AFP)

Iran is prepared to send a team of “military advisers” to support Houthi rebels in Yemen, a senior military commander has said, amid suggestions that forces fighting on the ground could be moving towards a peace deal.

Massoud Jazayiri, deputy head of Iran’s armed forces, told Iran’s Tasnim news agency on Tuesday that the country would consider repeating its actions in Syria, where it is supporting President Bashar al-Assad.

“The Islamic Republic [of Iran] feels very deeply its obligation to help the Syrian government and its people. It also feels very deeply its obligation to help the Yemeni people in any way possible.”

Iran has sent large numbers of military advisers to fight alongside the Syrian army and Hezbollah, as well as footsoldiers thought to include Afghan migrants to Iran who are promised high rates of pay and Iranian citizenship in exchange for fighting.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who overran much of the country in September 2014, are already known to have received financial and military support from Iran.

Australian naval ships on Monday seized more than 2,000 pieces of weaponry – including 100 rocket-propelled grenades – from a small, stateless fishing vessel off the coast of Oman.

US officials said the weapons may have originated in Iran and been intended for the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia has led an aerial and ground campaign against the Houthis for nearly a year, and accuses the rebels of being direct proxies for Iran, the kingdom’s regional arch foe.

Jazayiri’s suggestion that Iran may be prepared to put personnel on the ground in Yemen came hours before two warring parties in the conflict agreed a landmark prisoner swap for the first time in the bloody war.

The Saudi-led coalition confirmed on Wednesday that the Houthi rebels had freed a Saudi soldier in exchange for seven detained Yemenis.

The agreement was reached during a visit by a Yemeni tribal delegation to the Saudi capital Riyadh, the first of its kind since the coalition bombing campaign began last March.

The Yemeni delegation sought to negotiate a truce "along the border with the kingdom to allow the entry of medical and humanitarian aid to Yemeni towns near the theatre of operations," a coalition statement said. 

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