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Middle East
Peace agreement eludes Yemen
Clashes with Houthis continue in spite of a ceasefire deal proposed by the government.
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2010 09:58 GMT
Yemen presented the new ceasefire deal just as new clashes resulted in dozens of deaths [AFP]

Yemen's government has presented northern Houthi fighters with a detailed ceasefire agreement in a bid to end a six-year conflict.

Abdul Karim al-Iryani, an adviser to Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said the peace deal issued on Saturday gives a "timetable" for a truce between the Houthis and the Yemeni government.

But heavy clashes between government forces and Houthi fighters continue to rock northern parts of Yemen.

Houthi fighters said they killed 23 Yemeni soldiers in two attacks on Saturday while the military said 11 Houthi fighters were killed in air attacks the same day.

Al-Iryani said the war will end if the group accepts to sign the truce.

"All this is happening while officials are trying to implement a new ceasefire deal," Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sanaa, Yemen's capital, said.

"In a statement issued by the Houthis, they also accuse Saudis of attacks in many areas, firing more than 270 rockets and rounds of heavy artillery."

Discrimination alleged

The Houthis say their community of Shia Muslims from the Zaydi sect suffer discrimination and neglect and that the Yemeni government has allowed Sunni conservatives influenced by the Saudi religious establishment too strong a voice in the country.

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Yemen has come under international pressure of late to end the conflict quickly and free up resources to confront a separate threat from an al-Qaeda offshoot that has set up operations there over the past year.

Last week, the Houthis accepted a conditional ceasefire first issued by the Saleh government in September.

The plan called on the Houthi fighters to disarm, free hostages and clear mountain hideouts.

However, the government dismissed the offer and said it would halt military operations against the fighters only "under a certain framework."

It also added a fresh demand that the fighters vow not to attack Saudi Arabia.

'Signature on deal'

Al-Iryani, the presidential adviser, said if Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the Houthis' leader, "signs this document and accepts its mechanisms, the war will stop immediately".

Our correspondent said: "All that is required of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi is to put his signature on the deal, but now the problem lies within the details of the ceasefire."

The peace proposal calls for the formation of five committees made up of Houthi and government representatives that would implement the ceasefire, al-Iryani said.

The committee on border security would also include Saudi officials.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia was drawn into the conflict in November after the Houthis crossed the border and killed two Saudi border guards.

At least 133 Saudi soldiers have died in the fighting.

Saudi connection

The fighters announced a unilateral ceasefire with Saudi Arabia in late January.

However, the Saudis responded cautiously to the group's announcement and demanded fighters pull back from border positions and return five missing soldiers.

Several earlier ceasefires quickly disintegrated, mainly because the Houthis said their demands were not addressed.

In what could deal a further blow to the peace process, a security court in Sanaa on Saturday sentenced Yahya al-Houthi, the brother of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, in abstentia to 15 years in prison on charges of supporting the uprising.

Yahya al-Houthi has been living in Germany for the past three years.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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