Government to suspend operations against Shiite insurgents
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Yemen has offered a conditional ceasefire to Shiite rebels battling government troops in the country's northern Saada region, in order to allow international aid organisations access. There has been no response from the rebels as yet.
REUTERS - Yemen said on Friday it would suspend operations against rebels in the north of the country to allow access for aid groups if the Shi’ite rebels also agreed to stop fighting.
“The government sees no problem with suspending operations as of 9 pm Friday evening (1800 GMT),” a spokesman of the Supreme Security Committee said in a statement on the ruling party website “September 26”.
It said the ceasefire was conditional on the rebel movement doing the same and did not specify a time frame for the stop.
There was no immediate response from the rebels. Both sides have previously rejected ceasefire offers by the other party.
“(This is) in response to the calls of international aid organisations and the demands of men and women in Saada so that those displaced in camps because of the strife caused by the subversives and rebels receive supplies,” it said.
Last month fresh fighting erupted between Zaydi Shi’ite Muslims in the Saada region and government forces trying to impose central authority. The conflict first broke out in 2004.
U.N. aid agencies say more than 100,000 people, many of them children, have fled their homes during the surge in fighting. They launched an appeal in Geneva this week for $23.5 million to help Yemen. Thousands are thought to be staying in tented camps.
Information about the conduct of the war has been hard to verify since northern provinces have been closed to media.
Earlier on Friday each side traded claims over the fighting in the mountainous territory bordering Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer.
A government military source said the army had killed three rebel leaders and deployed a unit of snipers.
The rebels accused the government of using Saudi weaponry, issuing video footage of mortars bearing Saudi emblems.
Riyadh is worried that the instability in Yemen, which also faces al Qada violence and a southern secession movement, could allow militants to relaunch operations in Saudi Arabia.
The rebels accuse Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabi Islam regards Shi’ites as virtual heretics, of backing the government, while the government has accused media in Shi’ite power Iran of taking the rebels’ side.
Sanaa says the rebels want to restore a Shi’ite state overthrown in the 1960s.
The group wants more autonomy, and opposes the spread of Saudi-influenced Sunni fundamentalism and the ruling party of veteran Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who visited Saudi Crown Prince Sultan in Morocco this week.