Houthis in secret talks with US, says Yemeni govt in exile

DUBAI: Aircraft from a Saudi-led coalition bombed Yemen`s Houthi outposts throughout the country on Sunday, residents said, while Yemen`s government in exile said the militia was in talks with the United States in Oman.

The raids hit an airbase near Sanaa airport and a military installation aligned with the Houthis overlooking the presidential palace compound in the capital Sanaa.

The Saudi-led coalition began air strikes in Yemen in March in a campaign to restore Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. He fled in March, after Houthis seized Sanaa in September and then thrust into central and south Yemen.

Nearly 2,000 people have been killed and over 8,000 wounded in the conflict since March 19, according to the United Nations.

The Houthis` TV channel al-Masira said the coalition had launched 25 air strikes on the main Houthi provinces of Saada and Hajja along the kingdom`s border, without giving details, and said Saudi ground forces were also shelling the areas.

Residents in Saada confirmed by telephone that Houthi positions were heavily bombed by warplanes, but there was no immediate confirmation by Saudi authorities.In the central city of Taiz, also a main battleground between armed Hadi loyalists and Houthi militiamen, residents reported Arab air strikes on Houthi forces gathered in a historic mountaintop fortress and a nearby special forces base.

Yemen`s exiled government in Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that senior Houthi officials were holding talks with the United States in neighbouring Oman to help end the nine-week conflict, in a sign that diplomacy might be advancing.

`We have been informed that there are meetings, at American request, and that a private American plane carried the Houthis to Muscat, ` Rajeh Badi, a spokesman for the Hadi government said by telephone from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The Yemeni government was not party to the talks, Badi said. There was no immediate comment from Houthi or US officials.

If confirmed, the Oman meeting would be the first between the Houthis and the United States, Saudi Arabia`s main foreign ally, since the start of the war.

The United States has said it was providing arms and intelligence to Saudi Arabia during its campaign in Yemen and has historically been its most powerful ally.

`We hope that these talks are beingheld in the context of international efforts to implement UN Security Council resolution 2216,` Badi said. The resolution, adopted in April, recognised Hadi as Yemen`s legitimate authority and called on the Houthis to quit the main cities.-Reuters

Published in Dawn