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Arms for Houthis found in Yemen trucks with Oman plates: newspaper

DUBAI (Reuters) - Allies of Yemen’s president found weapons bound for Iran-aligned Houthi forces on trucks with Omani license plates, although there was no evidence of any link to Omani authorities, who are neutral in Yemen’s war, a Saudi-owned daily reported on Sunday.

A Houthi militant stands on a wall in Sanaa, Yemen September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Marib governor Sultan al-Arada as saying the vehicles carrying “explosives and weapons” had been en route from the Yemeni province of Hadramout to the Houthi-held Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Arada is an ally of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whose supporters, backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition have been waging an offensive trying to roll back gains made by the Houthis since 2014.

The fighting, which intensified after U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait ended last month without an agreement, has seen little ground changing hands.

Omani officials were not immediately available for a comment. Arada was also out of the country and could not immediately be reached for a comment.

“Arada did not confirm an external link to that shipment, indicating that the trucks were carrying Omani license plates but it was not possible to confirm any Omani authorities’ connection to that,” al-Hayat said.

Oman is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which also groups Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, but also maintains good relations with the Gulf Arabs’ regional rival Iran, and the Houthi group.

The Gulf Arab state has stayed out of a Saudi-led Arab coalition that has intervened in Yemen since March last year to try to restore Hadi to power after the Houthis forced him to flee the country.

Oman sees itself as a mediator trying to prevent traditional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran from escalating into a confrontation.

Saudi Arabia, convinced that Iran supplies the Houthis with weapons, patrols Yemeni waters to try to stop any weapons from reaching the group.

Reporting by Sami Aboudi, editing by William Maclean and Toby Chopra