Yemen's Saleh denies reports of divisions with Houthi rebels

The former president made a television appearance after clashes between the two sides erupted last month

epaselect epa06159468 Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh delivers a speech during a rally marking the 35th anniversary celebrations for the formation of his General People's Congress party, in Sana’a, Yemen, 24 August 2017.  According to reports, hundreds of thousands of ex-president Ali Saleh’s supporters massed around a big square in the Yemeni capital Sana’a to celebrate the 35th anniversary of General People's Congress (GPC) party, as tensions rose within the Houthi-Saleh alliance after Houthis tried to prevent the GPC party from summoning millions of supporters from across the war-torn country to attend the anniversary celebration in Sana’a.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has said there is no dispute between him and the Shiite Houthi rebels, his allies in the fight against the internationally-recognised government.

"There is no crisis or differences whatsoever, but only in the imagination of those who want these decisions and who want to plant these doubts and divisions," Mr Saleh said in an interview with Yemen Today TV after reports emerged that he was being held under house arrest by the Houthis.

He said there was no truth to what “international media, linked to enemy countries, have reported or what is being said on social media in [Yemen]”.

There has been an increase in tensions between Mr Saleh and the Houthi rebels, with leaders on each side criticising the other in recent weeks. The rebels accused Mr Saleh of trying to pull his forces from the front lines of the war with the government, while the former president’s supporters have said the rebels are monopolising power.

The two factions are unlikely allies. During Mr Saleh’s presidency, he repeatedly went to war with the Houthis in their northern stronghold.

In Monday’s interview, Mr Saleh said there had been “fears or doubts” by the rebels that he was planning a coup against their joint government.

“We said in letters of assurance to the brother [rebel leader] Abdul Malik Al Houthi not to believe those who [want to plant] doubt and the plotters that there is an operation against Ansar Allah,” he said, using another name for the Houthis. “He answered me positively and said ‘there’s no problem at all’."

“There’s no problem whatsoever between us and Ansar Allah,” Mr Saleh added.


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Mr Saleh demanded last week the arrest of Houthi gunmen suspected of killing one of his top aides, Col Khaled Al Radi. Following Col Al Radi's death on August 26, fighting broke out between the rebels and Saleh loyalists. Two Houthi fighters were killed in the clashes.

The two sides agreed to ease tensions a few days later. But although the clashes have now stopped, fighters from both factions remain deployed in backstreets and in some buildings in the capital, Sanaa.

The Houthis and Saleh loyalist continue to govern the capital and other areas in the north and west of the country.

A Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE, intervened in the war in Yemen in 2015 in support of the internationally-recognised government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi to restore his power in Sanaa after the Houthis seized the capital and entered into an alliance with Mr Saleh and his supporters.

According to the UN, more than 8,400 people have been killed and more than 3 million forced to flee in Yemen's civil war, pushing Yemen to the brink of famine.

The World Health Organisation and Yemen's health ministry said on Tuesday that a cholera outbreak in the country has infected 612,703 people and killed 2,048 since it began in April. Some districts are still reporting rises in new cases.

However, the overall spread of the epidemic has slowed in the past couple of months, with the daily number of new suspected cases cut to around 3,000 in recent days.