ISLAMABAD: The spea­ker of the Iranian parliament on Monday denied the impression that Tehran was backing Yemeni rebels in their armed campaign against Saudi Arabia.

Responding to a question, Dr Ali Ardeshir Larijani denied that Iran had supplied missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen. “They are fighting by themselves,” he maintained.

Riyadh has accused Houthi rebels of firing at least three ballistic missiles at the kingdom over the past month alone, terming them ‘acts of war’. However, all the missiles were intercepted before they could cause any major damage.

Talking about the recently-concluded Spea­kers’ Conference, which was attended by top parliamentarians from six countries, Mr Larijani said it would contribute towards strengthening economic ties and regional cooperation against terrorism. “Consultations regarding ways to counter terrorism have always been useful,” he added.

The Iranian speaker also hailed Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s recent visit to Tehran and hoped that it would prove useful in promoting bilateral relations.

Talking about the US campaign in Afghanistan, Mr Larijani said the country’s drug production had risen 45pc since 2001. He accused the US of backing the so-called Islamic State terror group, and asked that if America invaded Afghanistan to fight terrorists, why had it “played around” with them for so long.

Saying that his country was not competing with Saudi Arabia, he also condemned recent Saudi overtures towards Tel Aviv, terming it a bad move.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2017