Yemeni religious scholars denied statements issued by Shiite leaders in Iraq and Iran about "repression and genocide" of Shiites in Yemen.

"The allegations about repression of the Zaidi Shiites and the Twelfth Imam sect contradict reality. The Yemenis have a constitution and the laws do not discriminate against any sect," said a statement issued by the Yemeni Religious Scholars Association in a reply to statements issued by Al Najaf Huza in Iraq and Qum Huza in Iran. Both are revered by Shiites.

The Yemeni scholars said that Badr Al Deen Al Houthi, father of slain rebel leader, Hussain Al Houthi, represents only himself and his followers. The rebellion he is waging does not represent the Zaidi sect.

With regard to the Twelfth Imam sect, the scholars, in an obvious reference to Iran, said, "It exists in its place, but does not exist in Yemen."

"The Huzas should care about what is going on in Iraq rather than sympathising with a rebel and fanatic who is creating trouble by breaking the constitution, law and order which are drawn from the Sharia," said the statement.

"The Huzas should know what happened in Yemen. They should not be making statements based on the exaggerated media reports," it added.

"The action taken in Sadaa was according to the constitution and to preserve security and stability of the country," the statement concluded.

The statements by religious scholars came after the American radio Sawa said that Badr Al Deen Al Houthi had sent an appeal to Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, and to the Muslim council of Najaf asking them to intervene and support the Zaidi sect which he claims has been the victim of "genocide".

According to the radio, the 83-year-old Shiite preacher denounced, in his appeal, the destruction of houses and villages where his followers live and accused the government of having set fire to all the books and historical documents belonging to the Zaidi sect.

He also sought the intervention of the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to end the "repression".