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Peace talks flounder as clashes violate Yemen truce

Peace talks between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government have stalled after both sides accused each other of violating the truce. Meanwhile, the president's forces have recaptured key areas in the country's north.

Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels, who are partly backed by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, reportedly rejected peace negotiations in Switzerland on Friday, saying they would not resume talks unless the United Nations condemned breaches of the truce by Yemen's recognized government and its Saudi Arabia-led allies.

"A meeting was scheduled this morning. We waited for them and they did not show up," a member of Yemen's government said in Magglingen, where the talks were taking place. "Last night, they already expressed reservations," he told news agency AFP on condition of anonymity. Negotiators are required to comment anonymously only as part of the talk's terms.

However, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi dismissed questions on whether rebels were boycotting the talks and said Friday's discussions had been scheduled late to allow time for prayers. The UN's special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, was "working very hard to bring the sides closer together on substantive issues," Fawzi said.

Hadi's troops capture northern towns

News of the floundering peace talks came as the truce, which only began on Tuesday, seemed to fall to pieces. On Friday, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's troops and allies managed to capture Hazm in the northern province of Jawf, AFP news agency reported tribal sources as saying. The capture came around 24 hours after Hadi's forces captured significant portions of the neighboring Marib region, where soldiers regained control over the town of Harad.

"Intensive fighting took place in Harad," a Yemeni military official told reporters, adding that 1,000 soldiers participated in the operation. He also said that dozens of deserters allied with the Houthi Shiite rebels died in the attack.

Riyadh also accused the rebels of firing missiles at its territory, saying that two missiles were launched from Yemen towards Saudi Arabia on Friday. Its defenses intercepted one missile earlier in the day. There were no reports of any casualties. Clashes were also reported along the border with Saudi Arabia, where rebel strikes killed more than 80 people since March.

Yemen is embroiled in a civil war between Houthi rebels, backed by Iran and remnant troops loyal to former President Saleh, and President Hadi's forces, with military backing from Saudi Arabia and others. In March this year, a coalition led by Riyadh launched air and ground strikes on Yemen in an attempt to recapture the capital Sanaa from the rebels. More than 6,000 people have died in the conflict, millions have been displaced.

mg/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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