Arab air strikes hit Yemen as peace talks enter second day

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2015 3:01 AM

SANAA (Reuters) - Arab air strikes hit military targets throughout Yemen on Wednesday and expanded into one western province for the first time, despite peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending almost three months of fighting.

The bombings hit army bases in the capital, Sanaa, and Houthi militia targets in Yemen's central desert and the mountainous province of Mahweet, one of the last provinces in Yemen not to be bombed since the Arab campaign began on March 26.

A coalition of Sunni Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia has been bombing the Iran-allied Houthis, who hail from a Shi'ite sect, and their allies in Yemen's army since then. Their aim is to restore Yemen's exiled president to power and head off what they see as Shi'ite Iran's expansion in the region.

The Houthis seized Sanaa in September and pressed on into the country's center and south, forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The militia denies any military link to Tehran and says it is winning a revolution against Sunni Muslim militants and a corrupt government.

United Nations-backed talks among Yemen's warring factions are entering a second day in Geneva, and the U.N's special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, began shuttle diplomacy on Wednesday to bridge differences. But the two sides still refused to sit at the same table and laid out clashing agendas.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, held out hope for a resolution but accused his Yemeni opponents of seeking to advance Saudi Arabia's agenda.

"There is nothing hindering a political solution in the country; the solution is available, but they (Saudis) are the ones who ruin it with their aggression," he said.

Hadi and the Arab states have demanded the Houthis comply with a U.N. Security Council Resolution in April calling on the group to quit Yemen's main cities.

Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, blamed the Houthis for the lack of progress.

"Houthis and their allies resorted to violence ... thus the ceasefire and truce is in their hands," al-Jubeir told reporters at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic States in the kingdom, according to the Kuwait state news agency KUNA.

(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Larry King)