SANAA - President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi on Thursday told Tehran to stop meddling in Yemeni affairs after the defence ministry said the authorities had uncovered what it called an Iranian espionage network.
"An Iranian spy network that had been operating in Yemen for seven years under the leadership of a former leader in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards" has been dismantled, the ministry's news website 26sep.net reported late on Wednesday.
Quoting informed but unnamed sources, it said the network was "conducting espionage operations in Yemen and the Horn of Africa." It did not elaborate on any arrests.
The state news agency Saba on Thursday quoted Hadi as saying: "We wish our brothers in Iran would stop meddling in Yemen's affairs and consider the delicate period Yemen is going through. Leave Yemen alone. Enough."
Iran dismissed Hadi's outburst.
"Instead of launching baseless accusations against our country, (the Yemeni leaders) would do better to consider and respond to the legitimate demands of their people," said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.
"Iran rejects any interference in the internal affairs of other countries in the region," he said in a statement to Iran's Arabic language television Al-Alam.
Relations between Sunni-majority Yemen and Shiite Iran have been strained as Sanaa accuses the Islamic republic of backing Zaidi rebels, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, in the north of the Arabian Peninsula state.
Tehran has repeatedly denied the claim.
Yemen's mountainous north is a stronghold of the Zaidis, also known as Huthis, who from 2004 fought six wars with central government forces before signing a truce in February 2010. The rebellion claimed thousands of lives.
Dozens of people have also been killed in sectarian clashes since last year between the rebels and Sunni Salafists in the north.