‘No negotiations with Houthis’: Yemen president

Asked if his government’s delegation would discuss reconciliation with the rebel negotiating team, president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi said: 'Not at all.'

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Yemen’s exiled president said his government will not negotiate with Iran-backed rebels at UN-sponsored peace talks due to open in Switzerland this weekend, in comments broadcast on Monday.

President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi said the sole item for discussion would be the implementation of a resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in April demanding that rebels withdraw from the swathes of the country they have seized.

“There will be no negotiations,” Mr Hadi told Al Arabiya television.

“It will be just a discussion about how to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216. We will have a consultation.”

Asked if his government’s delegation would discuss reconciliation with the rebel negotiating team, Mr Hadi said: “Not at all.”

Yemen’s prime minister Khaled Bahah echoed Mr Hadi’s remarks, telling a news conference in Riyadh that the Geneva meeting will be merely a “consultative” process.

Mr Bahah, who is also vice president, said the exiled government will head to the meeting with only one goal: “implementing 2216 and reinstating the state” overran by Houthis.

Once the legitimate government is reinstated, “all political factions return to dialogue to resume the political process... and approve the draft constitution and organise elections,” he added.

Announcing the talks on Saturday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon asked all sides to enter the talks without preconditions.

Mr Ban “reiterates his urgent call on all Yemeni parties to engage in these consultations in good faith and without preconditions in the interest of all Yemeni people,” his spokesman said.

He said the talks were aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Houthi rebels and stepping up deliveries of humanitarian aid.

After overrunning the capital Sanaa last September, the Houthis seized much of the country, prompting a Saudi Arabia-led coalition to launch a bombing campaign against them on March 26. Mr Hadi fled to Riyadh.

In the interview, Mr Hadi again hit out at Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, charging that its meddling in his country’s affairs was “more dangerous than Al Qaeda.”

“Al Qaeda could be eliminated, but here we have a systematically politicised action,” he said.

Iran has always denied supporting the rebels.

* Agence France-Presse