Saudi, allies hail Saleh for 'taking the lead' in Yemen


Riyadh (AFP)

A Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Huthi rebels praised former president Ali Abdullah Saleh Saturday for "taking the lead" after he announced he was open to talks with the coalition.

"The decision by (Saleh's) General People's Congress to take the lead and their choice to side with their people will free Yemen of... militias loyal to Iran," the coalition said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saleh, who has been allied with the Huthi rebels since 2014, said on Saturday that he was open to talks with Riyadh and its allies on condition they lift a crippling blockade they imposed on Yemen early last month.

For three years now, the Saleh-Huthi camp has ruled the capital Sanaa, ending decades of enmity that saw Saleh wage multiple wars against the rebels during his presidency.

But in recent months, their fragile alliance has shown signs of unravelling. Saleh has accused the Huthis of seeking to monopolise power and the rebels have accused the strongman of treason over his suspected contacts with Saudi Arabia.

Clashes between Saleh loyalists and rebels erupted in Sanaa on Wednesday and continued into Saturday, leaving dozens of fighters dead.