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Yemen rebels ready to talk with govt if war ends

Sanaa accepts British call for extremism meeting

The Houthi rebels battling government forces in north Yemen said they are ready for talks with Sanaa once the government declares an end to hostilities, a rebel spokesman announced 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 Houthis, also known as 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 since 2004.

When the war stops we will be ready for dialogue

Rebel spokesman

British offer

Meanwhile Sanaa welcomed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's announcement of an international meeting in London on Jan. 28 on combating extremism in the country.

"It's a step in the right direction that will mobilize international support for Yemeni development and its efforts to battle unemployment and the effects of poverty," the Saba news agency quoted an official spokesman as saying.

"Eradicating poverty and joblessness in developing countries is the best way to fight extremism and ensure that no environment is created that would encourage this phenomenon and attract young people to it," he added.

On Friday Brown's office said the London meeting at the end of the month would run "in parallel" with a conference on Afghanistan which is expected to be attended by senior ministers or leaders from about 43 nations.

Long-standing concerns that Yemen has become a haven for Islamic terror groups were thrown into sharp relief when a Nigerian man allegedly trained in the country was charged with trying to blow up a U.S. airliner on Dec. 25.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, reportedly confessed to being trained by an al-Qaeda bomb-maker in Yemen for his alleged mission to blow up the plane as it came in to land in Detroit, sparking a major international security scare.

The United States revealed this week that it was sharply increasing its military and economic aid to Sanaa to fight a growing threat from al-Qaeda, and Brown said it was vital to mobilize international support.

"The international community must not deny Yemen the support it needs to tackle extremism," he said.

Brown has invited "key international partners to a high-level meeting in order to discuss how best to counter radicalization in Yemen", his office said in a statement.

The aims of the meeting would include identifying what Yemen's government needs to help it fight violent Islamic extremism and coordinating assistance for areas most at risk of becoming radical, it said.

It's a step in the right direction that will mobilize international support for Yemeni development and its efforts to battle unemployment and the effects of poverty

Yemen official spokesman

No infiltration

Yemen also vowed it will not allow foreign fighters to infiltrate the country after Somalia's al-Shabaab insurgents said they will send militants to help an al-Qaeda affiliate behind the failed U.S. airliner bombing.

"Yemen will not accept on its territory any presence by (foreign) terrorist elements and will be on guard against anyone who tries to act against its security and stability," the official Saba news agency quoted Foreign Minister Abu Nakr al-Kurbi as saying.

Saba said Kurbi was "astounded" by the al-Shabaab pledge to send militants to fight Yemeni government forces who have been battling al-Qaeda.

Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour, a senior official of the militia that pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda, announced the plan on Friday as he presented hundreds of newly trained fighters in the north of Mogadishu.

"We tell our Muslim brothers in Yemen that we will cross the water between us and reach your place to assist you fight the enemy of Allah," said Robow, to chants of "Allahu Akbar" -- God is greater -- by the young fighters.

"Today you see what is happening in Yemen, the enemy of Allah is destroying your Muslim brothers," he added. "I call upon the young men in Arab lands to join the fight there."

On Saturday Kurbi said: "It would have been wiser for those who promise to export terrorism to work towards stability in their own war-ridden state."

Yemen will not accept on its territory any presence by (foreign) terrorist elements and will be on guard against anyone who tries to act against its security and stability

Foreign Minister Abu Nakr al-Kurbi