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Yemen: Houthis push for Iran participation in UN peace talks
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Yemen's exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi (C) arrives for the opening of the Riyadh conference on Yemen in the Saudi capital on May 17, 2015. (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Yemen’s exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi (C) arrives for the opening of the Riyadh conference on Yemen in the Saudi capital on May 17, 2015. (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Houthi movement has informed the new UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, that it wants Iran to be included in any peace talks to be sponsored by the international organization, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a Sana’a source quoted a senior Houthi figure as saying that Iran will participate in the Geneva conference called for by Ould Cheikh.

Saudi Arabia along with a coalition of Arab states launched an aerial campaign targeting the Houthis in Yemen on March 26 with the aim of restoring President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power in Sana’a.

The Houthi rebel group and forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh have boycotted a three-day conference on Yemen in Riyadh, which entered its third and final day on Tuesday.

A wide range of Yemen’s political factions have taken part in the conference that seeks to find a political solution to the crisis in the country. The Houthis said they would only attend if the talks were relocated to a country other than Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, Saudi-led airstrikes resumed on Houthi targets across Yemen as a five-day truce expired late on Sunday.

The Houthi rebels took advantage of the ceasefire to move weaponry and military equipment closer to the southern border of Saudi Arabia, coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The spokesman said coalition forces are monitoring the movements of the Houthis and will soon target the newly deployed weaponry that the group is hiding in civilian buildings, such as schools and hospitals.

According to Asiri, coalition forces have exercised the highest degree of restraint in order to maintain the five-day ceasefire but the constant breaches by the Houthis made extending the truce completely pointless.

He said: “The coalition’s view is that extending the five-day truce . . . would be pointless and would give the Houthis a greater opportunity to kill civilians.”

The coalition’s decision to show restraint despite the ceasefire violations was based on its commitment to the international community, Asiri maintained.

“We confirm that the coalition has not carried out any combat operations throughout the truce,” Asiri said, emphasizing that the coalition’s military activities were limited to monitoring the skies and developments on the ground in Yemen.

Coalition airstrikes hit several rebel positions in the city districts of Tawahi and Khor Maksar near Aden on Monday, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Coalition airplanes carried out several airstrikes on rebel outposts near the Houthi-controlled presidential palace in Tawahi.

Also in Aden, the anti-Houthi Popular Committees, volunteer forces loyal to Hadi, managed to block a key route linking the districts of Mansoura and Khor Maksar as they clashed with Houthi militants in the eastern Arish district.

Houthi militants attacked two residences belonging to the Yemeni army’s Chief General of Staff Maj. Gen. Ali Al-Makdishi in Dhamar governorate, 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Sana’a, on Monday.

Eyewitnesses said rebels looted one of the official’s residences and bombed the other.