April 26, 2015 / 4:44 PM / 3 years ago

Yemeni foreign minister rejects peace talks call from ex-president

LONDON (Reuters) - Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen on Sunday rejected a call for peace talks issued by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and said a Saudi-led military campaign against Iran-allied Houthi fighters opposed to his government had not ended.

Yemen's Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen speaks during a news conference after the closing session of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, in the South Sinai governorate, south of Cairo, March 29, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Saleh, whose loyalists have been fighting alongside Houthi rebels who forced the central government into exile, on Friday called on all Yemenis to return to political dialogue to find a way to end the country’s spiraling conflict.

“These calls are unacceptable after all the destruction Ali Abdullah Saleh has caused. There can be no place for Saleh in any future political talks,” Yaseen told a London news conference.

Saudi Arabia said last week it was ending a month-long campaign of air strikes against the Houthis, who seized large areas of Yemen, and that it would back a political solution to bring peace to its war-ravaged neighbor. But coalition forces continued to bomb targets inside Yemen after the announcement.

“Operation Decisive Storm has not ended,” said Yaseen, referring to the Saudi-led campaign. “There will be no deal with the Houthis whatsoever until they withdraw from areas under their control,” such as the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

Yaseen was speaking after air raids, naval shelling and ground fighting shook Yemen in some of the most widespread combat since the Saudi-led alliance intervened last month.

Yaseen said there would be no need for the coalition to deploy ground troops in Yemen because 70 percent of Yemen was not under Houthi or Saleh’s control.

Editing by Andrew Osborn

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