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Yemen's Houthi rebels seek new friends in Baghdad

The delegation met with senior officials during the trip to Baghdad [Twitter]

Date of publication: 31 August, 2016

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A delegation of senior Houthis visited Baghdad this week, as the first leg in their regional tour to garner support for their newly appointed political council.
A delegation from Yemen's Shia rebel group visited Baghdad this week to meet with officials and even have a photoshoot with notorious Iraqi militants.

Senior members of the Houthi rebels flew to Baghdad on Sunday, where they met with officials to discuss the ongoing conflict in Yemen that pits them against the legitimate Saudi-backed government, before visiting high-ranking leaders from the Popular Mobilisation Shia militia fighting Islamic State.

"Upon arrival, the delegation met with the Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraqi politicians and leaders in the ruling national coalition,” an Iraqi foreign ministry source told The New Arab.

Former Yemeni embassy spokesman in Washington, Mohammed a-Basha said the Houthis, who are regularly accused of receiving Iranian funding, also met with the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim - an influential politician and Shia cleric.

In a video posted online, the delegation was filmed surrounding Abu Izrael, a notorious fighter from within the Popular Mobilisation Forces (al-Hashed al Shaabi) who gained popularity for his performance in the battle against the Islamic State.

The delegation is expected to continue onto Beirut before ending the trip in Tehran, the source suggested, in what is believed to be an attempt to garner support for their recently announced ‘supreme political council’, especially from Shia figures and parties.

Earlier this month, al-Basha posted another tweet suggesting the start of a formation of an alliance between Houthis, Baghdad and Damascus – all of which are close allies of Iran.

Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir adamntly rejected Houthi ambitions to control Yemen.

"What is certain, not questionable, certain, they will not be allowed to take over Yemen. Period. So the legitimate government will be defended," al-Jubeir said to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.

"The chance they have is to enter the political process, reach an agreement ... for the benefit of all Yemenis including the Houthis," he said.

Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Since the collapse of the Yemen peace talks earlier this month, violence has escalated along the Saudi Arabian border, leaving dozens dead on both sides of the conflict.

UN figures said on Tuesday that the death toll in Yemen's conflict has reached 10,000, an increase from estimates of more than 6,000 cited by officials and aid workers for much of 2016.

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