Egypt extends mandate by three months to deploy military abroad

CAIRO (Reuters) - The Egyptian government said it had extended by three months the deployment of "some elements of the armed forces" abroad, enabling it to continue participating in a Saudi-led coalition that has been launching air strikes in Yemen. Egypt, which has one of the Middle East's largest military forces, is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and has said it is participating in the alliance targeting Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are allies of Iran. Egypt initially authorized a 40-day mandate on March 26 to defend national and Arab security in the Gulf, the Red Sea and the Strait of Mandeb. The defense ministry asked for the mandate to be renewed before its expiry, a statement from the cabinet said on Sunday. The coalition "welcomes this step and confirms its importance in restoring the security and stability of Yemen", coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said on Saudi-owned Al Hadath television station on Sunday. The statement did not specify whether Egypt's renewed mandate included the possibility of sending ground troops, and Saudi Arabia denied that any major ground operations in Yemen were underway. An Egyptian security source said that, as yet, no new forces had been deployed as part of the renewed mandate. The mandate's renewal comes a day after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Saudi Arabia, which along with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have provided billions of dollars in aid to help prop up Egypt's economy. (Additional reporting by Ali Abdelatti; Writing by Shadi Bushra; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Jane Baird)