More than 50 dead in heavy Yemen fighting

A Yemeni tribesman from the Popular Resistance Committee, supporting forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, stands on the back of a pickup truck mounted with a weapon in the country's third-city Taez during clashes with Shiite Houthi rebels on Tuesday. (AFP / AHMAD AL-BASHA)
Updated 16 November 2016
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More than 50 dead in heavy Yemen fighting

ADEN, Yemen: Heavy fighting between government forces and rebels in north and west Yemen has left 51 dead, as a new peace efforts appeared to stumble, military officials said Wednesday.
They said forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi have clashed since Tuesday with Shiite Houthi rebels and allied renegade troops in the country’s northwest, near the border with Saudi Arabia.
The fighting as loyalists launched an attack on three fronts to recapture the coastal town of Midi and nearby Haradh, the officials said.
Fifteen loyalists and 23 rebels were killed in the fighting, the officials said.
“Our military operations will continue until we push them out,” said army Col. Abdul Ghani Al-Shubaili, whose forces had air support from a Saudi-led Arab coalition.
Elsewhere, nine rebels and four soldiers were killed in fighting on the outskirts of the flashpoint city of Taiz, in southwest Yemen, military officials said.
Pro-Hadi forces have advanced toward the city’s presidential residence and police headquarters, both under rebel control, witnesses said, reporting heavy fighting and loud explosions that shook the city.
Fighting in Taiz and its surroundings on Tuesday killed 39 people, including five civilians, 20 soldiers and 14 rebels, military officials said.
The UN says more than 7,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded in Yemen since the Arab coalition launched a military campaign in March 2015 in support of the government against the Iran-backed rebels.
Millions are in need of food aid, and another 21 million people urgently need health services, according to the United Nations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that rebels were ready to observe a cease-fire plan taking effect this week, but the government swiftly dismissed the proposal, saying it was like rewarding the Houthis for their violent rampage.
Kerry spoke a day after meeting Houthi negotiators in Oman, but Hadi’s government said it was not aware of any new peace initiative.
Six attempts to clinch a cease-fire in Yemen have foundered, including a three-day October truce that fell apart as soon as it went into force. It was designed to allow aid deliveries to millions of homeless and hungry Yemenis.


France’s Macron sends senior diplomat to Iran to defuse US tensions

Updated 32 min 56 sec ago
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France’s Macron sends senior diplomat to Iran to defuse US tensions

  • Emmanuel Bonne held ‘high-level meetings’ Wednesday in Tehran
  • The French presidency refused to say whom the top diplomatic adviser met

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron sent his top diplomatic adviser to Iran this week as part of European efforts to defuse tensions between Tehran and Washington, the French presidency said Thursday.
The adviser, Emmanuel Bonne, held “high-level meetings” Wednesday in Tehran, “with the aim of contributing to the de-escalation of tensions in the region,” Macron’s office said.
The presidency refused to say whom Bonne met, adding only that he left Tehran on Wednesday evening.
The strains between Washington and Tehran increased Thursday with Iran’s announcement that it had shot down a US “spy drone” that violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz.
The United States has yet to respond.
The incident marks the latest escalation in tensions following last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which the United States blamed on Iran.
Tehran has denied any involvement.
Tensions between the longtime foes, who have had no relations since the hostage crisis that followed the 1979 Islamic revolution, have increased sharply since US President Donald Trump last year abandoned a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and re-imposed sanctions.
Macron, who is traveling to a G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka on June 28-29, will “have contact with the main players” in the standoff, his office said.
Before that he will pay an official visit to Japan on June 26-27, during which he will hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who recently traveled to Iran to try mediate in the crisis.
Abe met with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who categorically refused to hold talks with Trump.
The EU is under pressure from Tehran to try salvage the 2015 deal, with Iran threatening to breach its nuclear enrichment limits.
On Tuesday, Macron urged Tehran to be “patient and responsible.”