Mar 28, 7:28 AM EDT

Yemen's president calls Shiite rebels 'stooges of Iran'


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AP Photo/Yassir Hassan

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) -- Yemen's embattled president on Saturday called Shiite rebels who forced him to flee the country "stooges of Iran," directly blaming the Islamic Republic for the chaos there and demanding airstrikes against rebel positions continue until they surrender.

Other leaders, including the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, obliquely referenced Iran earlier at the opening session of an Arab summit held in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. They blamed Shiite, non-Arab Iran for meddling in the affairs of Arab nations, with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi saying, without mentioning Iran by name, that it was "spreading its ailment in the body."

Yemeni President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi directly challenged Iran in his remarks. He also called for his supporters to rise up in peaceful protest against the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis. He said the airstrikes staged by Saudi Arabia and its allies against the Houthis must not stop before they surrender and return medium and heavy weapons they looted from army depots across much of the country.

Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement. Officials there had no immediate comment on Hadi's remarks.

Hadi fled Yemen earlier this week, making his way to Saudi Arabia after leaving the southern coastal city of Aden in the face of a push into southern Yemen by the Houthis and their allies, including forces loyal to ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Also addressing the summit, Saudi Arabia's monarch, King Salman, said the military campaign in Yemen would not stop before security and stability are restored in Yemen.

El-Sissi also endorsed a resolution adopted by Arab foreign ministers on Thursday for the creation of an Arab military force, saying the Arab world was currently facing unprecedented threats.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday that its navy had evacuated 86 diplomats and others from Aden on Wednesday. It did not identify the nationalities of all those it evacuated in the operation, though it said diplomats from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar were on hand Saturday when those evacuated arrived at a Jiddah naval base.

Pakistan also announced Saturday it had two planes standing by to evacuate its citizens.

Dozens of foreign diplomats, including United Nations staff, still were awaiting evacuation Saturday by air in Sanaa, airport officials said on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

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Al-Haj reported from Sanaa, Yemen.

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