Yemeni President: War is Over

Reuters
Friday, March 19, 2010; 8:41 AM

DUBAI (Reuters) – Yemen’s war with northern Shi’ite rebels has ended, the country’s president said in a television interview according to a tape received by Reuters.

“We can say the war is over; not stopped or in a truce,” Ali Abdullah Saleh told Al-Arabiya in an interview to be aired on Friday.

Sanaa, struggling to stabilize the country, has come under international pressure to end the northern war and focus on fighting al Qaeda, whose Yemen-based arm claimed responsibility for a failed attack on a U.S.-bound plane in December.

Western countries and neighboring Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda is exploiting instability on multiple fronts in impoverished Yemen to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

Analysts say the truce deal between the government and rebels, called Houthis after the clan name of their leaders, is unlikely to last as it does not address the insurgents’ complaints of discrimination by Sanaa.

But Saleh said there were positive signs of the rebels commitment to ending the war such as removing landmines, opening roads, removing road blocks and handing over administrative units which they had occupied.

He also pointed to the release of nearly 175 government soldiers and tribal fighters on Wednesday.

“These are considered positive indications to prove good intentions not to return to a new war,” he said.

Saleh also said he would not have dialogue with the separatists movement in the South but he was open for talks with pro-unity elements.

“Dialogue is only with pro-unity elements (in the south) who have legitimate demands. But we don’t have dialogue with separatist elements,” he said.

“We have dialogue with those who have understanding and complaints about certain issues … through political channels,” Saleh said.

North and South Yemen united in 1990, but many in the south — home to most of Yemen’s oil industry — complain northerners have seized resources and discriminate against them.

(Writing by Rania Oteify; editing by Myra MacDonald)

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