Yemen rebels say ready for talks

DUBAI: Shiite rebels battling government forces in north Yemen are ready for talks with Sanaa once the government declares an end to hostilities, a rebel spokesman said on Saturday.

"When the war stops we will be ready for dialogue," Mohammed Abelsalam told AFP in Dubai by telephone, adding that he was reacting to an appeal from President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In an article published on Friday to mark the new year, Saleh appealed for reason from the insurgents.

He urged the Zaidi rebels to agree to the conditions laid down by the government for a return to peace, saying they should cease hostilities, withdraw from official buildings and respect the law.

"If these elements accept this plea for peace, the state will offer the hand of peace," he wrote in the government daily Al-Thawra.

Abdelsalam said on Saturday the rebels would announce their acceptance of the government's terms once it "brings a definitive end" to military operations against them in the north.

Sanaa has been engaged in sporadic fighting with the rebels, also known as Huthis, since 2004.

Last August 11, government forces launched "Operation Scorched Earth," an all-out offensive to stamp out the uprising among the Zaidis, a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but the majority group in the northern mountains.