Yemeni president announces cease-fire with northern rebels to end conflict

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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SAN'A, Yemen - Yemen's president said Thursday the military will halt operations against northern rebels after reaching a cease-fire agreement that ends the country's six-year conflict.
After years of sporadic fighting with the militants, Yemen has come under international pressure to quickly draw a close to the war and free up resources to confront a separate threat from an al-Qaida offshoot that has set up operations there over the past year.
The truce will take effect at midnight (2100 GMT) on Thursday, President Ali Abdullah Saleh's office said in a statement.
"We have decided to halt military operations in the northwestern region ... to stop bloodshed, bring peace to the region, the return of displaced people to their villages, reconstruction and achieve national reconciliation," the statement said.
Several earlier cease-fires quickly disintegrated, mainly because the rebels said their demands were not addressed, and it was not clear whether the truce announced Thursday would hold.
Last week, the government presented the Hawthi rebels with a detailed cease-fire agreement after the militants accepted the government's conditions for a truce.
The president's office cautioned that an end to military operations depends on the Shiite militants' commitment to observing the government's conditions. Authorities have called on the militants to disarm, free hostages, clear mountain hideouts and vow not to attack Saudi Arabia.
Neighbouring Saudi Arabia was drawn into the conflict in November after rebels crossed the border and killed two Saudi border guards. Some 133 Saudi soldiers have died in the fighting.
The rebels announced a unilateral cease-fire with Saudi Arabia in late January. However, the Saudis responded cautiously to the rebel announcement, and demanded militants pullback from border positions and return five missing soldiers.
The militants say their community of Shiite Muslims from the Zaydi sect suffer discrimination and neglect and that the government has allowed ultraconservative Sunni extremists too strong a voice in the country. Hard-line Sunnis consider Shiites heretics.

Organizations: Al-Qaida

Geographic location: Saudi Arabia, Yemen

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