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Yemeni rebels 'ready for talks' if air strikes stop

(Reuters)
Filed on April 7, 2015
Yemeni rebels ready for talks if air strikes stop

But they want halt to Saudi-led air strikes first .

Cairo — Yemen’s Houthis are ready to sit down for peace talks as long as a Saudi-led air campaign is halted and the negotiations are overseen by “non-aggressive” parties, a senior Houthi member said.

Saleh Al Sammad, who was an adviser to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, also said in emailed answers that Yemenis reject the return of Hadi, who escaped to Saudi Arabia after Houthi fighters edged closer to his southern base of Aden last month.

Warplanes and ships from a Saudi-led coalition have been bombing the Iran-allied Houthi forces for 11 days, saying they are trying to drive back the Houthis and restore Hadi. UN brokered peace talks in the preceding weeks between Hadi and the Houthis had failed.

“We still stand by our position on dialogue and we demand its continuation despite everything that has happened, on the basis of respect and acknowledging the other,” Sammad said.

“We have no conditions except a halt to the aggression and sitting on the dialogue table within a specific time period ... and any international or regional parties that have no aggressive positions towards the Yemeni people can oversee the dialogue,” Sammad said, without specifying who they might be.

Sammad added that he wanted the dialogue sessions aired to the Yemeni people “so that they can know who is the obstructor”.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, was quoted as saying that the kingdom was also ready for a political meeting of Yemeni parties, under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Meanwhile, Houthi fighters and allied army units clashed with local militias in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Sunday, and eyewitnesses said gunbattles and heavy shelling ripped through a downtown district near the city’s port.

A pro-Hadi militia source said 36 Houthi and allied fighters were killed on Sunday in Aden’s central Mualla district, near the port, while 11 of Hadi’s combatants died.

 Houthi forces initially advanced towards the port area, but hours later had been pushed back several streets towards an army base.

 “There are bodies in the streets and we can’t get close because there are Houthi snipers on the rooftops. Anything that gets near they shoot at, and the shelling on Mualla has been indiscriminate,” a medic said. — Reuters


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