Yemen snubs Iranian envoy after uncovering spy ring

Reuters News

7/31/2012 10:07:52 AM - Reuters News

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has snubbed a visiting Iranian envoy to signal his "displeasure" with Tehran, a Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday, only weeks after Yemen said it had uncovered an Iranian-led spy ring in the capital Sanaa.

The Iranian envoy was visiting Yemen to invite Hadi to the Non-Aligned Movement's summit in Tehran in August.

"Hadi's refusal to receive the Iranian envoy was an expression of Sanaa's displeasure with Tehran's policy towards Yemen," a Yemeni Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.

The state news agency Saba said on July 18 that Yemen had uncovered a spy ring led by a former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The spy ring, which kept an operations centre in Sanaa, had also been operating in the Horn of Africa, the agency said.

Hadi ordered Iran after news of the spy ring emerged to stay out of Yemeni affairs.

Iranian media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying that Tehran respected Yemen's sovereignty.

Earlier this year, U.S. ambassador to Sanaa Gerald Feierstein said Iran was working with Shi'ite Muslim rebels in northern Yemen and secessionists in the south to gain influence at the expense of Yemen's Sunni-ruled Gulf neighbors.

The most powerful of those is Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the leader of the Sunni world and is Iran's rival for regional supremacy. It crafted the power transfer deal that saw Hadi's predecessor, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, leave office after 33 years.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Isabel Coles; editing by Sami Aboudi and Tim Pearce)