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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yemeni Houthi leader asks Riyadh for ceasefire.

A political leader of the Yemeni Zaidi fighters, Yahya al-Houthi, has called on Riyadh to agree to a ceasefire and expressed his group's willingness to negotiate with Saudi security officials.

"We call upon Saudi Arabia to stop its military attacks and start negotiations," he said in an interview with Al-Arabiya late on Wednesday.

"Our war is not with Saudi Arabia," Yahya al-Houthi emphasized.

This is while the Saudi forces continue to pound the positions of Houthis as frequent cross-border confrontations between Shia fighters and Saudi security forces have drawn Riyadh into the ongoing Sana'a military campaign against the northern Yemeni combatants.

A Saudi government adviser told Reuters on Thursday that the world's biggest oil exporter is using air power and artillery to enforce a 10-kilometer (six mile) deep buffer zone inside Yemen to keep Shia resistance fighters away from its southwestern border.

Last week, Riyadh unleashed F-15 and Tornado jets against Houthi positions around the massive Jebel al-Dukhan mountain, which soars 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) out of the coastal plain on the border in southern Jizan province.

Saudi ground troops and heavy long-range artillery lined the sides of the main road to the frontier town of al-Khubah at the foot of the mountain, as soldiers patrolled fields and inspected vehicles for Houthi fighters. The Houthis blame Riyadh of permitting Yemeni troops to use Saudi territory to attack their flank.

The Yemeni government launched Operation 'Scorched Earth' on August 11 to uproot the Shia Houthi fighters whom Sana'a accuses of seeking a return to the Zaidi imamate rule, overthrown in a 1962 coup.

The northern combatants, however, reiterate that they suffer religious discrimination by Sunni fundamentalists who hold sway because of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's cordial relations with the staunchly Wahabi-dominated Saudi regime.

Saada and neighboring Amran province are encircled by fighters and frequently pounded by military jet fighter as helicopter gunships. The conflict zones in northern Yemen remain cut from the rest of the country and are currently grappling with a pressing shortage of food and other basic supplies.

The United Nations puts the figure of displaced people in northern Yemen at around 150,000 civilians. 

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