More than 250,000 people have been displaced by the war between Sana'a and Houthi fighters.

The Houthis had accused the government of being corrupt and ignoring the north, and Saleh of being a dictator.

Prisoner release

Earlier this week, Sanaa has said that the Houthis were not complying with the truce.

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But then on Thursday, the government said that it would release members of the group from prison within days under the ceasefire deal, after the Houthis ended the captivity of 170 government soldiers and allied tribesman.

The northern conflict has threatened to spread across the region, with Saudi Arabia, on Yemen's northern border, being drawn into the fighting with the Houthis, and Sanaa accusing Iran of supporting the secessionists.

Previous truces between the Houthis and Sanaa have not held.

Saleh is under international pressure to deal with domestic issues and concentrate on the battle against an increasingly prominent al-Qaeda.

Western powers believe al-Qaeda is exploiting instability in the country to train and recruit members.

Al-Qaeda's Yemeni arm said last December that an attempted bombing of an airliner bound for the US on Christmas Day was carried out by a man they trained.

Southern secessionists

In the interview, Salah also said that his government was ready to hold talks with opposition groups in the formerly independent south, where the majority of the country's oil industry is located.

However, he limited that offer only to pro-unity opposition not separatists.

"Dialogue is only with pro-unity elements who have legitimate demands. But we don't have dialogue with separatist elements," he said, adding that talks would be completed via political channels.

Protests have occurred in the south, which united with the north in 1990, in recent months leading to clashes with security forces, including some protesters being shot dead.

Saleh offered a to talk to southerners last month to hear their complaints. Many people in the south believe that the north has seized resources from them and discriminate against them.