Yemen Houthis' ally welcomes Swiss peace talks

A Yemeni man looks at supporters of Yemen's deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, pictured in a banner at right, on the anniversary of an assassination attempt on Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP)

The party of Yemen's deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key ally of Shiite Houthi militias, on Tuesday welcomed U.N.-brokered peace talks due to open in Switzerland at the weekend.

The General People's Congress said it had not yet received a formal invitation from the United Nations but the U.N. envoy met with party representatives in the militia-held capital in late May as part of his efforts to convene the talks in Geneva.

Saleh himself is under U.N. sanctions for his support for the militias and did not take part in the meetings, party sources said.

The GPC "welcomes holding the Geneva conference for consultations between Yemeni political components without any preconditions from any group, with goodwill and under the patronage of the United Nations," its almotamar.net website said.

Saleh, who ruled for 33 years before being forced from power in 2012 after a bloody year-long uprising, threw the support of his loyalists in the army behind the Houthis in their offensive that forced his successor into exile in March.

He himself proposed Geneva as the venue for the talks as a compromise between militia-held Sanaa and the Saudi capital Riyadh, where exiled President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi has taken refuge.

His loyalists have been repeatedly targeted alongside the militias in a Saudi-led coalition launched in support of Hadi on March 26.

On Tuesday, coalition air strikes hit pro-Saleh troops and militias across the capital before dawn, witnesses said.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the defence ministry which they jointly control.

Residents also reported air strikes in third city Taez and the eastern oil province of Marib -- both key battlegrounds -- and in the militia heartland in Yemen's far north.

The peace talks are due to open in Geneva on Sunday afternoon.

They had initially been scheduled for May 28 but were postponed after Hadi demanded the militias first withdraw from seized territory.

They will last two to three days and be held mostly behind closed doors, according to U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, who will attend the opening, has urged all sides to join the talks without preconditions in a bid to end a conflict which has killed more than 2,000 people since March.

But the exiled president set new conditions in an interview broadcast on Monday, insisting the sole item for discussion would be implementation of a U.N. resolution demanding a militia withdrawal.

"There will be no negotiations," Hadi told Al Arabiya.

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Last Update: 14:23 KSA 17:23 - GMT 14:23
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