Houthis turn down Hadi’s call for moving talks to Riyadh

Hadi called for the U.N.-sponsored talks to be moved to Saudi Arabia if a deal cannot be reached inside Yemen

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Yemen's Houthi rebels and the General People’s Congress (GPC) of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh turned down a call by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to hold U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Saudi Arabia, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing a government source.

Hadi called Tuesday for troubled U.N.-brokered reconciliation talks to be moved to neighboring Saudi Arabia if an agreement cannot be reached on a venue inside Yemen.

The Western-backed president, who withdrew a January resignation offer after his escape saying it had been made under duress, had proposed that the talks resume in Aden or in Yemen’s third city Taez, which is also outside the control of the Houthi militia.

“As Aden and Taez are not accepted by some, I call for shifting the talks to the headquarters of the GCC in Riyadh,” Hadi told tribal chiefs.

He also called for the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which group’s impoverished Yemen’s oil-rich neighbors, to sponsor the talks, an aide said.

The Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen and have set up their own government institutions in the capital, have opposed any change of venue for the U.N.-brokered talks.

The General People’s Congress party of ousted strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is widely accused of backing the militia, had warned that it will boycott any talks held outside Sanaa.

The GCC has thrown its support behind Hadi and several member states have moved their embassies to Aden since his escape.

The Sunni-ruled Gulf states are deeply suspicious of the Houthis, fearing they will take Yemen into the orbit of Shiite Iran.

The Shiite militia has clashed repeatedly with Sunni tribes as they have advanced into confessionally mixed or mainly Sunni areas of central Yemen since overrunning the capital last September.

At least 25 Houthis and seven Sunni tribesmen were killed in fighting in Baida province on Tuesday, tribal sources said.

Yemen’s feared al-Qaeda branch, which has sought to exploit the power vacuum, kept up its attacks on the army in the troubled southeast.

A bomb attack killed three soldiers near the jihadist stronghold of Qatan in the Hadramawt valley in the province’s rugged interior, a military official said.

[With AFP]

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