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Yemen's Hadi wants reconciliation talks moved to Saudi

Hadi had previously proposed that the talks resume in Aden or in Yemen's third city Taez
President Abdrabuh Mansur Had with Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Said Al-Jaber in Aden on 28 February (AFP)

Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi called Tuesday for troubled UN-brokered reconciliation talks to be moved to neighbouring Saudi Arabia if agreement cannot be reached on a venue inside Yemen.

The call came as at least 32 people were killed in clashes between Shiite Houthi gunmen and Sunni tribesmen backed Al-Qaeda militants in central Yemen, tribal source said. 

The talks, which had been held in the Shiite militia-held capital Sanaa, have broken down since Hadi escaped to second city Aden last month after weeks under effective house arrest.

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 neighbours, 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 UN-brokered talks.

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

It is by no means clear that Riyadh will be any more acceptable as a venue to the Houthis or their supporters.

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 Houthi, 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.

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