Yemeni official: Embattled president will not attend upcoming peace talks in Geneva


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In this Tuesday, May 19, 2015 photo, Ibrahim Mohamed, 80, and the oldest refugee at the center, who is both blind and deaf, adjusts his hat, at an orphanage that has been turned into a center for Yemeni refugees, in Obock, northern Djibouti. Fleeing the war at home, thousands of Yemenis have made it across the Gulf of Aden to find refuge in Djibouti, a sleepy Horn of Africa nation where the United Nations has set up a staging hub for aid for the conflict-torn Arab country. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni government spokesman Rageh Badi said Saturday that embattled Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi will not attend upcoming peace talks in Geneva as Saudi-led airstrikes continued to hit multiple provinces in Yemen.

The announcement is a blow to the planned talks, which are aimed ending weeks of airstrikes against an Iran-supported rebel group amid a growing humanitarian crisis that has left millions short of food and fuel.

Badi says Hadi will not attend due to the security situation and because Shiite Houthi rebels have not satisfied a government pre-condition to pull out of towns and cities they occupy — including the capital, Sanaa.

The leader of the Houthi rebels, Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, has called the talks the "only solution" for the conflict

Meanwhile security officials said Saudi-led coalition airstrikes continued, hitting Sanaa, Dhamar, Hodeida and the Houthi stronghold of Saada early in the day. At dawn, planes hit targets belonging to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family in the village of Sanhan, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Also on Saturday, authorities in Djibouti turned away an Iranian plane carrying aid for Yemeni refugees there, Iranian state television reported.

The report said the plane returned safely Saturday to Iran and that authorities hoped to make arrangements to allow the plane to land in the small African nation now hosting thousands of Yemenis who fled fighting in their country.

The television report claimed Saudi Arabia pressured Djibouti into not allowing the plane to land. The report did not elaborate and Saudi state media made no mention of the plane. Authorities in Djibouti could not be immediately reached for comment.

Saudi Arabia and the West accuse Iran of supporting the Houthis militarily, something Tehran and the rebels both deny.

A delegation of Shiite Houthi rebels has travelled to neighboring Oman at the invitation of the Sultanate to discuss the current situation in Yemen, Houthi officials said.

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