Iran general slams 'declining' Saudi over Yemen strikes

Tehran (AFP) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards chief said Monday Saudi Arabia is verging on collapse as Tehran's position strengthens, putting the kingdom in the same camp as arch-foe Israel over its military intervention in Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab states launched air strikes in Yemen on March 26 against Huthi Shiite rebels, whom Riyadh accuses Tehran of arming.

"Now that these attacks have taken place, reservations should be put aside," said General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of Iran's elite Guards force.

"Today the Saudi dynasty is on the verge of decline and fall," he said, asserting that Iran was in the ascendancy, the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

"We hope this will be realised quickly," he added, according to the Tasnim news agency.

"Every day we are witnessing the strengthening of the Islamic revolution's power and dimensions outside. Enemies and America have submitted to it."

Jafari's remarks are a further sign of deteriorating relations between Tehran and Riyadh, after recent heavy criticism by Iran's supreme leader and other top officials.

As the Middle East's foremost Sunni and Shiite powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran are increasingly seen as vying for supremacy in the region, which remains beset by conflict and political turmoil.

Jafari urged Iranian officials to put aside past considerations and speak out against the Sunni kingdom, following its air strikes in Yemen.

"Today, treacherous Saudi Arabia is stepping in the footsteps of Israel and the Zionists. This wasn't the case in the past and right now the Islamic revolution's opponents are becoming clearer."

The United Nations says more than 1,000 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen since March 19.

The Huthis, who have overrun large parts of Yemen prompting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to Riyadh, have demanded an end to the air war as a condition for resuming UN-sponsored peace talks.

Saudi Arabia wants Hadi to return as president, a demand the Huthis are resisting as they say his government was corrupt.

Jafari's comments come after deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia's decision to prevent Iran from delivering humanitarian aid to Yemen "would not be left unanswered".

On April 9, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei too compared Saudi Arabia to Israel.

"What the Saudi government is doing in Yemen resembles exactly what the Zionist regime did in Gaza. This is a massacre, a genocide," he said.

"Certainly, the Saudis will suffer damage," Khamenei warned, without elaborating.

Saudi-led bombing raids targeted anti-government forces in south Yemen on Monday, killing at least 12 Huthi insurgents and allied troops as fighting continued across several provinces, officials said.