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UN mediator in Yemen for peace talks

The UN envoy has arrived in Yemen for talks with government leaders and Shiite rebels ahead of scheduled peace talks in Geneva. More than 5,700 people have been killed since a Saudi-led air campaign began in March.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Aden on Saturday, sources from the president's office said. Hadi has been waging a war against Iran-backed Houthi forces in the capital Sanaa and the nearby province of al Dhalea.

"Despite the suffering and wounds, our hands are always outstretched for peace based on national and humanitarian responsibilities towards our people," Hadi was quoted as saying after meeting the envoy.

However, no date for the peace talks was immediately declared.

Previous UN-led efforts to end the conflict through dialogue have failed as battles rage across the country and Saudi-led warplanes bomb positions in operations criticized by the UN as indiscriminate and needlessly destructive.

Difficult road to Geneva

Schweiz UN Jemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed

UN envoy Ahmed will bring the warring parties to Geneva for peace talks from December 12

Mistrust runs deep between Yemen's warring parties, with the Houthis believing the government wants to take back power by force and Hadi officials saying that the Houthis are refusing to withdraw from main cities as required by a UN Security Council Resolution passed in March.

It is the first time that the UN envoy has paid an official visit to Aden, which Hadi declared the temporary capital after Arab coalition forces seized it from the Houthis in July.

A UN source told the Reuters news agency that UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's talks with Hadi are desiged to lay the groundwork for a second round of talks in the Swiss city of Geneva slated for December 12.

The Iran-backed Houthi group swept Hadi from power in February as part of what it called a revolution against corruption. It has accused Hadi of being beholden to Saudi Arabia and western powers, including the United States.

jar/jlw (Reuters, AFP)

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