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Yemen rebels say drone hits arms depot at Saudi airport

AP  |  Dubai 

Yemen's Houthi rebels said Tuesday they launched a bomb-laden drone targeting an airport in that also has a military base inside of it, an attack acknowledged by the kingdom as Mideast tensions remain high between and the US.

The attack on comes as quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity amid tensions with the US over Tehran's atomic program, nuclear officials said Monday, just after and Iran's traded threats and taunts on

Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67 per cent limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, making it usable for a power plant but far below what's needed for an atomic weapon.

But by increasing production, soon will exceed the stockpile limitations set by the accord. has set a July 7 deadline for to set new terms for the deal, or it will enrich closer to weapons-grade levels in a already on edge. The has deployed bombers and an to the region over still-unspecified threats from Iran.

In the drone attack, the Houthi's Al-Masirah channel said early Tuesday they targeted the airport in with a Qasef-2K drone, striking an "arms depot" there. Najran, 840 kilometers (525 miles) southwest of Riyadh, is right on the Saudi border with and has repeatedly been targeted by the Iranian-allied Houthis.

A statement earlier Tuesday on the quoted Saudi-led coalition Col. as saying the Houthis "had tried to target" a in Najran, without elaborating. It was not clear if there were any Al-Maliki warned there would be a "strong deterrent" to such attacks and described the Houthis as the "terrorist militias of Iran." Such Houthi attacks in the past have sparked rounds of Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen, which have been widely criticized internationally for killing civilians.

Civilian airports throughout the often host military bases.

last year reported that analysts were based in assisting the Saudis and a US Army Green Berets deployment on the border. The and the US military's did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last week, the Houthis launched a coordinated drone attack on a Saudi amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US.

That came as already this month, officials in the alleged that four were sabotaged and US diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by

Iran's enrichment announcement came after journalists visiting the country's underground enrichment facility in Natanz were given a statement by an who wore a surgical cap and a mask. His outfit wasn't explained, although is suspected of targeting Iranian nuclear scientists.

The agency later quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, the of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as acknowledging that capacity had been quadrupled. He said Iran took this step because the US had ended a program allowing it to exchange enriched uranium to for unprocessed yellowcake uranium, as well as ending the sale of heavy water to Heavy water helps cool reactors producing plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.

Kamalvandi said Iran had informed the of the development. The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog did not respond to a request for comment. long has insisted it does not seek nuclear weapons, though the West fears its program could allow it to build them.

Before Iran's announcement, Trump tweeted: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the again!" Trump's remarks reflect what has been a strategy of alternating tough talk with more conciliatory statements he says is aimed at keeping Iran guessing at the administration's intentions. He also has said he hopes Iran calls him and engages in negotiations.

He described his approach in a speech Friday, saying, "It's probably a good thing because they're saying, 'Man, I don't know where these people are coming from,' right?" But while Trump's approach of flattery and threats has become a hallmark of his foreign policy, the risks have only grown in dealing with Iran, where mistrust between Tehran and stretch four decades. While both sides say they don't seek war, many worry any miscalculation could spiral out of control.

Iranian soon responded by tweeting that Trump had been "goaded" into "genocidal taunts." Zarif referenced both and as two historical leaders that Persia outlasted.

"Iranians have stood tall for a millennia while aggressors all gone," he wrote. "Try respect - it works!" Zarif also used the hashtag #NeverThreatenAnIranian, a reference to a comment he made during intense negotiations for the 2015 nuclear accord.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 21 2019. 11:46 IST