France's Fabius in Saudi Arabia to back Yemen bombing campaign
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France Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday to show France's support for the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. He was to meet King Salman, the defence minister and the head of kingdom's civil nuclear programme.
"In relation to Yemen, we have come to show our support, above all political, for the Saudi authorities," Fabius said before embarking on a series of meetings.
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of nine Arab countries that has been carrying out daily air strikes against Huthi Zaidi Shia militias fighting Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been forced into exile.
Iran, which has been accused of arming the rebels, has dismissed the claim as "utter lies".
On Sunday its defence ministry announced that three Saudi army officers had been killed by mortar fire on a town near the Yemeni border and blamed Huthi fighters.
Fabius declared that Hadi and his supporters were the "legitimate authority" in the country and called for a "political solution" and negotiations.
"Of course France stands beside its partners in the region to restore stability in Yemen," he said.
While the US is providing intelligence to the coalition and fuelling its planes, France has not gone beyond verbal support.
Fabius was to meet King Salman bin Abdulaziz el-Saud, who took over the reins of the oil-rich nation in January, and his son Mohammed bin Salman, who, as defence minister, is responsible for the Yemen operation.
He was also to see his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Hashim Abdullah Yemani, chief of Kacare, the entity responsible for civilian nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia.
Responding to Saudi concerns about the planned nuclear deal with Iran, Fabius called for a "solid agreement" and insisted that sanctions against Tehran should be lifted "gradually" and restored if it does not keep to its commitments.
Paris, which has close economic and political ties with Riyadh, has taken a tough line during negotiations.
Human rights group Amnesty International called on Fabius to raise rights issues, notably the case of Raif Badawi, a blogger condemned to 10 years in prison and to be whipped 1,000 times for "insulting Islam".
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