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John Kerry urges Houthis to come to negotiating table

After former President Saleh called for reconciliation, John Kerry has urged the Houthi rebels to join peace negotiations. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Saudi airstrikes targeting the rebels this month.

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen to participate in UN-brokered negotiations to end violence ravaging the country.

"This has to be a two-way street," Kerry told reporters in Canada after taking part in a summit of Arctic nations.

"We need the Houthi and we need those that can influence them to make sure that they are prepared to try to move... to the negotiating table," Kerry said.

Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh had called on Friday for all Yemenis to enter a political dialogue to end the conflict.

"I call on all conflicting parties in all provinces to stop fighting and return to dialogue in all provinces," Saleh said in an emailed statement.

He called for

UN-brokered talks

between Yemenis and Saudi Arabia to be held in Geneva. Saudi Arabia has been

targeting the Houthis with airstrikes for a month,

killing hundreds of civilians.

'I will forgive everybody'

Saleh added that he is ready to reconcile with the parties that have opposed him since he was forced from the presidency in 2011, and called on all militants, including al Qaeda and armed supporters of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to withdraw from Aden and hand over power to the army and local officials.

Saleh heads the General People's Congress Party and is believed to have considerable influence on the country's Houthi rebels. He ruled for 33 years before an uprising in 2011 forced him to give up power.

"I will forgive everybody in the interests of the nation," said Saleh.

The conflict has raised tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, which supports the Houthis, and raised fears the Yemen conflict could evolve into a proxy war between the two Middle East powers.

More than 550 civilians have died after Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes designed to rout Houthi rebels who had taken over the port city of Aden and driven President Hadi out of the country. Hadi has meanwhile taken refuge in Riyadh.

bw/bk (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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