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Yemen peace conference on hold as bombing resumes

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wants fighting in Yemen to stop before convening a peace conference. The announcement came shortly after the Saudi-led coalition resumed airstrikes in the country.

Plans for peace talks involving all parties in the Yemen conflict were put on hold Monday. A spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Ban regretted there was no extension of last week's five-day humanitarian pause, which ended late Sunday with the

resumption of bombing attacks

by the Saudi-led coalition.

"We want the fighting decisively stopped and then we can get about to organize and invite people to the conference," UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters, adding that Ban "calls on all parties to create the conditions leading to a permanent ceasefire."

Both sides have traded blame for the continued violence, with Houthi supporters holding demonstrations in Sanaa (pictured above) against the resumption of the bombings.The Saudi-led coalition has blamed the Houthi rebels for the renewed fighting.

"They did not respect the humanitarian pause. That's why what we do what is necessary to be done," Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri told news agency AFP, saying that the Houthi militia did not stop fighting during the pause which was initiated to allow urgently needed humanitarian aid into the country following weeks of bombing and ground battles.

Assiri accused the Houthis of using the pause to move missiles towards the Saudi border. US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday made similar accusations while speaking to reporters in South Korea, according to Reuters news agency.

Talks have been underway in the Saudi capital between politicians and tribal leaders aiming to find a way out of the crisis, but the Houthis have boycotted the discussions. Iran, which supports the Houthis, has objected to the venue. The

Riyadh meeting

is due to conclude Tuesday.

Fierce fighting

The Saudi-led coalition has been bombing the mainly Shiite Houthis since late March, attempting to stop their advance after the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and many other regions of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, as the Houthis were advancing towards the southern city of Aden. The mainly Shiite Houthis and their allies support former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Saudi Arabia says they are backed by its regional rival,

Shiite Muslim power Iran

. Iran has denied accusations it has armed the Houthis.

There were reports Monday of coalition airstrikes striking rebel positions in several neighborhoods of Aden, as well as in the Houthis' northern heartland of Saada, near the Saudi border. Ground battles raged in other cities including Taiz.

According to UN figures, more than 1,800 people have been killed since March 19, while aid groups estimate more than half a million of Yemen's 25 million people were displaced after the Saudi-led operation began its airstrikes. The UN's Haq said Monday that food aid for more than 273,000 people had been delivered during the first four days of the humanitarian pause.

se/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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