SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's internationally recognized president will not participate in U.N.-brokered talks later this week with Shiite rebels who control the capital and much of the country's north, his office said Sunday.
The statement said there would be no talks with the rebels, known as Houthis, unless they accept a U.N. resolution that obliges them to withdraw from areas they seized and surrender weapons taken from state institutions.
The announcement came as President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government, currently in self-exile in Saudi Arabia, is making preparations to return to the port city of Aden at the end of this month following the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, two senior Yemeni government officials told The Associated Press.
More than 200 Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni troops have come to Aden in the past two weeks to help secure the city and pave the way for the government's long-planned return, according to Aden's governor Nayef al-Bakri and pro-government security officials.
Many Yemeni troops who were sent for training in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are returning to fight, pro-government officials said, reflecting the administration's confidence that it can hold onto the key city that has been bitterly contested by the various sides in the conflict. Parts of Aden are currently controlled by al-Qaida.
Hadi fled Yemen earlier this year for Saudi Arabia, which is leading a U.S.-backed coalition that has been striking the Iran-supported rebels from the air since March.
Yemen's conflict pits an array of forces against the Houthi rebels, who are allied with security forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The conflict has killed more than 4,000 people, leaving the Arab world's poorest country in the grip of a humanitarian crisis and on the brink of famine.
Several previous attempts to get the parties to end the conflict have failed, and it has proven nearly impossible to arrange a humanitarian pause to deliver desperately needed aid.
Also Sunday, a delegation of anti-rebel militia leaders from Aden traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at the request of the Hadi government to meet Yemeni and coalition officials, said anti-rebel militia leader Adeeb al-Eisy.
Pro-government officials said the visits aim to convince these fighters to lay down their weapons and withdraw from Aden and neighboring Lahj and Abyan provinces.
Anti-rebel militia fighters have refused to surrender their weapons to civil police, which is understaffed and not trained for full-scale combat, arguing it would leave them all defenseless in the face of al-Qaida militants and other extremists, officials from both sides said.
Many of the anti-rebel forces also distrust the Yemeni government, especially young fighters who take credit for "the liberation of Aden" and see no reason to follow orders from others, they added.
In the al-Qaida-controlled capital of Yemen's sprawling province of Hadramawt, a suspected U.S. drone attack on a military encampment on Saturday killed at least four people east of Mukalla, independent security officials there said Sunday. The victims, the officials and witnesses said, were buried nearby while scores of masked gunmen on motorcycles cordoned off the site of the attack.
And in the contested central province of Marib, 25 fighters from both sides of the conflict were killed as Yemeni and coalition troops advanced, cutting off multiple Houthi supply lines, pro-government and independent security officials as well as local tribal leaders said.
All officials and witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief journalists or fear reprisals.
Meanwhile, mourners in the United Arab Emirates grieved over the loss of servicemen killed in a Sept. 5 missile attack in Yemen after additional bodies arrived in the federal capital, Abu Dhabi, on Saturday following their identification in Saudi Arabia.
The Emirates said a total of 52 of its soldiers — seven more than the 45 it earlier acknowledged — were killed in the Houthi rebel attack. It was the heaviest military loss for the country since it was founded in 1971. The soldiers were deployed as part of the Saudi-led coalition.
Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.