Iran's Rohani Slams 'Worn-out' Arab League After Accusing Hezbollah of Terrorism

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FILE PHOTO - Iran's President Hassan Rohani delivers remarks at a news conference during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 20, 2017
FILE PHOTO - Iran's President Hassan Rohani delivers remarks at a news conference during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 20, 2017Credit: Stephanie Keith/REUTERS

Iran's President Hassan Rohani has criticized the Arab League for supporting Saudi Arabia and its role in the war in Yemen.

Rohani on Tuesday said it's unfortunate the organization expressed regret that the Yemeni rebels known as Houthis launched a ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia earlier this month in response to "so much bombing" by the Saudi-led coalition.

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He also called the regional organization of Arab countries "old, worn-out, exhausted and ineffective." State TV broadcast the remarks.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (R) speaks with members of the Saudi delegation during a meeting at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 19, 2017.Credit: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP

Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday accused Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of terrorism and of destabilizing the region.

Rohani also declared the end of the Islamic State group on Tuesday while a senior military commander thanked the "thousands of martyrs" killed in operations organized by Iran to defeat the militant group in Syria and Iraq. 

"Today with God's guidance and the resistance of people in the region we can say that this evil has either been lifted from the head of the people or has been reduced," Rouhani said in an address broadcast live on state TV. 

"Of course the remnants will continue but the foundation and roots have been destroyed." 

Major General Qassem Soleimani, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, also said Islamic State had been defeated, in a message sent on Tuesday to Iran's supreme leader which was published on the Guards' news site, Sepah News. 

Iranian media have often carried video and pictures of Soleimani, who commands the Quds Force, the branch of the Guards responsible for operations outside Iran, at frontline positions in battles against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Hezbollah tensions

Tensions spiked between Saudi Arabia and Iran after the Houthis fired the missile that was intercepted outside Riyadh.

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Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday that his Iran-backed group had not sent any weapons to Yemen and denied that it was behind the firing of a ballistic missile at Riyadh. 

Nasrallah also heaped criticism on Arab states that accused Hezbollah of terrorism at an emergency Arab League meeting on Sunday. He called the charge "trivial and ridiculous", asking why Arab states were silent about what he described as the destructive war a Saudi-led coalition has waged in Yemen. 

"I confirm to them, no ballistic missiles, no advanced weapons, and no guns ... we did not send weapons to Yemen," or Bahrain, or Kuwait, or Iraq, he said. 

Hezbollah had however sent arms to Palestinian territories, including anti-tank missiles, Nasrallah said. "I take pride in that. And in Syria there are the weapons we are fighting with," he said. 

Regional tensions have risen in recent weeks between Sunni Muslim monarchy Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran, whose rivalry has wrought upheaval in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. 

Arab League foreign ministers held an emergency meeting on Sunday at the request of Saudi Arabia to discuss ways to confront Iran and Hezbollah over their role in the region. 

Saudi Arabia has accused the heavily armed Shi'ite Hezbollah of helping Houthi rebels in Yemen and playing a role in the ballistic missile attack this month. Riyadh has been bogged down in the war it launched against the Houthis in Yemen in 2015. 

"I categorically deny it," Nasrallah said. "No man from Lebanese Hezbollah had any part in the firing of this missile or any missiles fired previously." 

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