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Saudi ambassador: Conflict in Yemen is not a proxy war with Iran

Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Adel al-Jubeir tells "Face the Nation" on CBS that the coalition is not ruling out ground troops in Yemen. (Video: Reuters)

Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, on Sunday denied that the growing sectarian conflict in Yemen represents a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“This is a war to protect the people of Yemen and defend its legitimate government from a group that is allied and supported by Hezbollah, but I wouldn’t call it a proxy war,” the ambassador said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to the Lebanese Shiite militia.

Saudi Arabia has led airstrikes in recent days against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have seized increasing areas of the country. Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled the country last week after struggling for months to maintain power.

[A possible coalition land attack looms]

Asked whether Saudi Arabia and Iran can coexist simultaneously as regional powers, Jubeir said the Iranian government has stood in the way of peace.

“It’s really up to the Iranians,” he said. “We have encountered many problems — aggression by Iran against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There has not been one incident of Saudi aggression against Iran. We have extended our hand in friendship to the Iranians, and it’s been rejected for the past 35 years.”