Yemen foreign minister urges more support for fight against militia foes

September 7, 2016 3:09 PM EDT

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By Andrea Shalal

BERLIN (Reuters) - Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi on Wednesday urged the international community to step up its support of his government in its fight against the armed Houthi movement, and to help combat arms smuggling from Iran and elsewhere.

"We are grateful for the international support for Yemen and the legitimate government, but we need more, of course," Mekhlafi said to the German Council on Foreign Relations. "Above all, we need more pressure on the militias so that they take part in the peace process."

U.N.-sponsored talks to try to end 18 months of fighting collapsed in failure last month and the Houthi movement and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh resumed shelling into neighboring Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Houthi rebels and Saleh supporters from taking control of the country.

Speaking in Berlin, Mekhlafi reiterated his government was ready to compromise and form a government with the Iranian-allied Houthi movement if they would accept a U.N. proposal.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had agreed in talks in Saudi Arabia with Gulf Arab states and the United Nations on a plan to restart peace talks with a goal of forming a unity government.

Both the Houthis and the exiled government have welcomed the idea of a return to talks since then.

The United Nations last week said that at least 10,000 people have been killed in the civil war. It said some 14 million of Yemen's 26 million population needed food aid and 7 million were suffering from food insecurity.

Mekhlafi said a national commission was studying all the deaths to determine responsibility, and rejected a call to launch an independent commission until that work was completed.

He said the government was willing to take responsibility for any mistakes that caused civilian deaths and said most the deaths were due to Houthi bombing. Saudi Arabia has previously been criticized by human rights groups over the strikes that have repeatedly killed civilians.

Last week the leader of Yemen's Houthi faction, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, told the Houthis' quarterly magazine his group was open to a peaceful solution of the conflict.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Alison Williams)



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