Sun, Apr 26, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Ex-Yemen leader urges rebels to heed UN, pull back

AFP, SANA’A

A fighter loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansourr Hadi fires his weapon during clashes with Houthi rebels in Aden, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Friday urged his rebel allies to heed UN demands to withdraw from territory seized in months of fighting so Saudi-led air strikes can end and reconciliation begin.

Saleh, who still holds sway over army units allied with the Houthi rebels that now control large swathes of the nation, had welcomed this month’s UN Security Council resolution as a way to “stop bloodshed” in Yemen.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in the fighting since late last month, according to the UN, which said on Friday at least 115 children were among the dead.

The conflict has sent tensions soaring between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, which backs the Houthis, raising fears Yemen could become a new front in a proxy war between Middle East powers.

“I call on [the Houthis] to accept all UN Security Council decisions and to implement them in return for a halt in the coalition forces’ aggression,” Saleh said in a statement read on his Yemen Today television channel. “I urge them and everyone — militias and al-Qaeda as well as militias loyal to [Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour] Hadi — to withdraw from all provinces, especially Aden.”

The Saudi-led coalition, which began air strikes on rebels and their allies on March 26, announced an end to that campaign on Tuesday in favor of seeking a political solution, but strikes have continued.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday urged the rebels to come to the negotiating table and end the unrest in the Gulf nation.

“This has to be a two-way street,” he told reporters. “We need the Houthi and we need those that can influence them to make sure that they are prepared to try to move ... to the negotiating table.”

Saleh, who still heads the influential General People’s Congress party, called for UN-brokered Saudi-Yemeni talks to be held in Geneva.

He proposed that all provinces be handed over to “the army and security apparatus under the control of local authorities in each province” and called “on all parties without exception ... to talk and show forgiveness.”

On Friday, Tehran summoned Riyadh’s envoy to protest after warplanes allegedly turned back humanitarian aid flights headed for Yemen, whose airspace is controlled by the Saudi-led coalition.

Despite Iran’s denials of backing the rebels militarily, a US aircraft carrier and other warships have deployed off Yemen to track Iranian naval movements and prevent any possible arms deliveries.

On Thursday, a US official said a nine-ship Iranian convoy that had been heading for Yemen was “no longer on the same course.”

Meanwhile, coalition air strikes have continued unabated. Warplanes hit a camp housing rebels in the city of Taez on Friday, residents said, after a night of clashes and raids throughout the nation.

Aden also came under coalition fire as clashes between Hadi supporters and rebels raged until dawn, pro-government militiamen said.

Residents in the eastern province of Marib also reported overnight air strikes and clashes between local tribesmen and rebels.

Air raids on Friday struck rebel convoys, including tanks, in the southern province of Abyan, leaving several dead and wounded, pro-Hadi militiamen said.

There were also strikes on nearby Daleh, local officials told reporters, adding that coalition warplanes destroyed a bridge linking the central province of Ibb and Shiite-majority Dhammar farther north to cut off rebel supplies.

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