Yemen President takes hard line ahead of Geneva peace talks
Yemen's exiled president took a hard line Monday ahead of weekend peace talks in Geneva, ruling out negotiations with Iran-backed rebels and denouncing Tehran's "dangerous" meddling in his country.
After overrunning the capital Sanaa last September, the Huthi rebels seized much of the country with the help of renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to launch a bombing campaign against them on March 26.
President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has sought refuge in Riyadh, said the sole item for discussion at the June 14 talks in Geneva would be the implementation of a UN Security Council resolution adopted in April demanding the rebels withdraw from territory they seized.
"There will be no negotiations," Hadi told Al-Arabiya television.
"It will be just a discussion about how to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216. We will have a consultation."
Asked if his government's delegation would discuss reconciliation with the rebel negotiating team, Hadi said: "Not at all."
Yemen's Prime Minister Khaled Bahah echoed Hadi's remarks, telling a news conference in Riyadh that the Geneva meeting would be merely a "consultative" process.
Bahah, who is also vice president, said the exiled government would head to the meeting with only one goal -- "implementing 2216 and reinstating the state" overran by Huthis.
Once the legitimate government is reinstated, "all political factions return to dialogue to resume the political process... and approve the draft constitution and organise elections," he added.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Saturday urged all sides to head to Geneva without preconditions.
Ban "reiterates his urgent call on all Yemeni parties to engage in these consultations in good faith and without preconditions in the interest of all Yemeni people," his spokesman said.
He said the talks were aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Huthi rebels and stepping up deliveries of humanitarian aid.
Ahead of the talks, the European Union announced Monday it was implementing UN sanctions against Huthi leader Abdulmalek al-Huthi as well as Saleh's son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The pair "have been targeted with a travel ban and an asset freeze over their actions against Yemen's peace and stability," the EU said, adding in a statement that its decision reflects UN resolution 2216.
In the interview, Hadi again hit out at Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, charging that its meddling in his country's affairs was "more dangerous than Al-Qaeda".
Yemen is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, classified by the United States as the network's deadliest franchise.
"Al-Qaeda could be eliminated, but here we have a systematically politicised action," said Hadi.
Iran has repeatedly denied supporting the Huthis, who have agreed to attend the Geneva talks.
In the capital Sanaa, coalition warplanes launched new strikes on the rebels, hours after overnight raids hit military positions held by the fighters north of the city, witnesses said.
In the southern city of Aden, a woman and three of her children were killed when a Katyusha rocket fired by rebels hit their home, pro-Hadi militia spokesman Ali al-Ahmedi told AFP.
The rebels have been trying for five days to advance towards Buraiqa, a strategic sector of the city that houses an oil refinery and a port.
Medical officials said nine people, among them three civilians, were killed and 53 were wounded in 24 hours of fighting across Aden, Yemen's second largest city.
Medical and local sources also reported that 15 civilians were killed on Sunday when a coalition air strike hit a bus carrying people between the southern provinces of Lahj and Taez.
Clashes also killed 19 rebels and three pro-Hadi fighters in Taez province, while in Taez city three civilians were killed in mortar rounds fired by rebels and four other wounded, officials added.
More than 2,000 people have died in Yemen fighting and raids since March.