Yemen rebel leader Ali Abdullah Saleh seeks dialogue amid escalating violence

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Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Saturday he was willing to talk with Saudi leaders as his coalition with Iranian-backed rebels appeared to be crumbling.

Saleh’s overture came as his fighters battled Houthi-rebels (pictured above) for a fourth day in the capital Sanaa.

“I call on our brothers in neighboring countries … to stop their aggression and lift the blockade … and we will turn the page,” the former president said in a televised speech.

“We vow to our brothers and neighbors that, after a ceasefire is in place and the blockade is lifted … we will hold dialogue directly through the legitimate authority represented by our parliament.”

Saudi Arabia has led coalition of Sunni Arab nations that have been fighting Saleh and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels since 2015. The Arab states recently imposed a total blockade on Yemen after a rebel missile was shot down near Riyadh.

Sanaa has been rocked by an eruption of violence this past week between Saleh’s supporters and the Houthi rebels. Dozens of fighters have been killed and injured and residents now fear a new front in an already brutal war.

Accused of betrayal

Yemen's Ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh gestures during a speech before a bank of microphones.

Yemen’s Ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said at least 80 people have been killed in this week’s clashes between forces loyal to Saleh and Houthis. Tensions between the heretofore allies have grown in recent months with Saleh supporters accusing the Houthis of trying to monopolize power.

The coalition accuses Saleh, who heads the General People’s Congress party, of betraying his Arab neighbors by joining forces with the Houthi rebels. The Houthis are widely believed to have the support of Iran, with whom Saudi Arabia has been waging an increasingly tense political struggle for regional influence.

Meanwhile, Houthi leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, called for dialogue with Saleh and his rebel forces to end the growing violence between the two factions.

In televised comments, al-Houthi called on Saleh to “be more mature” than his forces, and to “let the General People’s Congress seek with us judgment of the sane and elders in this country. The wrongdoer then should be held responsible.”

Yemen is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries. Since 2014, it has been locked in a devastating civil war pitting Saudi-backed government forces against Iranian-supported rebels.

Yemen has become a humanitarian catastrophe. More than 10,000 people have been killed, and at least 2 million displaced. A cholera outbreak has infected nearly 1 million people and put the country on the brink of famine.

bik/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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