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UAE says ready to back efforts for peaceful Yemen rebel pullout

© AFP | A Yemeni government soldier taking part in the offensive against Hodeida walks along the coast road towards the rebel-held Red Sea port city on June 21, 2018

ABU DHABI (AFP) - 

The United Arab Emirates, whose troops have played a major role in a Yemeni government offensive against the port city of Hodeida, said Saturday that it was ready to support diplomatic efforts to secure a rebel withdrawal.

But it said the pullout must be unconditional and from the whole city not just its vital docks, the entry point for three-quarters of Yemen's imports.

"The coalition will achieve its goal, which is to free the city, including the port," UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tweeted, referring to a Saudi-led coalition which intervened in support of the Yemeni government in 2015.

"In the meantime, it will support all efforts to secure a peaceful and unconditional withdrawal by the rebels," he added.

UAE-backed government forces launched their offensive against Hodeida on June 13 and on Wednesday overran its disused airport after deadly fighting with the rebel garrison.

On Saturday, the airport continued to come under mortar fire from adjacent rebel-held neighbourhoods in the south of the city. Government forces responded against the source of the fire.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths, who held abortive talks in the rebel-held capital Sanaa last weekend, was continuing "consultations with all sides to avoid a military confrontation in Hodeida and return rapidly to the negotiating table," his office said.

The rebels have said they are willing to share control of Hodeida's port with the United Nations but have vowed that their forces will remain in the docks and in the rest of the Red Sea city.

The coalition alleges that the port has been used by the rebels as an entry point for weapons smuggled from its arch-foe Iran.

© 2018 AFP