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Warring parties in Yemen agree to UN peace talks

The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels have agreed to hold UN-brokered peace talks at the end of the month. Saudi Arabia, which has led a military campaign against the rebels, has welcomed the talks.

The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels will hold peace talks in Geneva at the end of October in a renewed effort to end almost a year of fighting that has created a humanitarian disaster in the Arab world's poorest state.

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had agreed to hold the peace talks after the

Houthis agreed to implement a previous UN Security Council resolution.

UN Security Council Resolution 2216 demands the Houthis withdraw from territory seized since late last year and hand over their weapons to the government.

Yemen's government spokesperson, Rajeh Badi, confirmed Hadi had agreed to the talks, but declined to comment on whether the Houthis had provided assurances regarding a withdrawal and handing over weapons.

Previous UN-brokered talks in June collapsed before the warring parties sat down at the negotiating table. Hadi's government last month refused to enter negotiations with the Houthis until they agreed to withdraw from territory.

Saudi Arabia, which since March has led a Sunni Arab military campaign to restore Hadi to power, welcomed the peace talks, saying the Houthis' decision to accept the UN resolution was a "step in the right direction."

The Saudi-led coalition and loyalists have set up the government in Aden and retaken large swaths of territory in Yemen's south as they push an offensive to retake the capital, Sanaa.

The multifront conflict pits Houthi rebels and forces tied to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces loyal to Hadi, southern Yemeni secessionists, tribal forces and elements of al-Qaeda and the

so-called "Islamic State."

Saudi Arabia alleges the Shiite Houthis are backed by Iran - claims that are denied by the rebels and Tehran.

The Saudi-led coalition has come under

mounting criticism for the heavy toll the war has taken on civilians,

80 percent of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance. At least 4,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict since March, according to the UN.

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

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