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Iran says envoy repatriated from Yemen dies of COVID-19

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By Reuters

<div> <p><span class="caps">DUBAI</span> – Iran said on Tuesday its envoy to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement has died of <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 after being repatriated last week, blaming Saudi Arabia for delaying his departure from the Yemeni capital Sanaa.</p> <p>Saudi Arabia and Iraq helped to transfer ambassador Hasan Irlu on board an Iraqi plane, according to a Houthi spokesman.</p> <p>“We had to try for a few days to get permission…to send a plane from Iran or another country to take him quickly to a well-equipped hospital in Iran, but unfortunately the Saudi side decided too late and some Saudi bodies procrastinated,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said.</p> <p>A Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement for more than six years has imposed a sea and air blockade on areas the group controls.</p> <p>The Saudi government media office <span class="caps">CIC</span> did not immediately respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region’s Sunni Muslim and Shi’ite powerhouses, launched direct talks this year at a time when global powers are trying to salvage a nuclear pact with Tehran and as U.N.-led efforts to end the Yemen war stall.</p> <p>“We will formally voice our protest in accordance with international conventions, and we hope that Yemen will be able to move soon… towards a political solution and get out of this war and severe humanitarian siege,” Amirabdollahian told Iranian media. </p> <p>Last December, the U.S. Treasury blacklisted Irlu and described him as an official of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and a pillar of Iranian efforts to project power in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.</p> <p>“We have lost a great friend,” Houthi deputy foreign minister Hussein al-Ezzi said on Twitter.</p> <p>Two Yemeni political sources and a foreign source said Irlu had recently kept a low profile due to illness and political tension. </p> <p>The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis after the movement ousted the internationally recognised government from Sanaa. </p> <p/> </div>