Yemen meet backs Saudi-led forces, calls for safe zones

Smoke billows from Noqum mountain after it was hit by an air strike in Yemen's capital Sana'a on May 19, 2015. Yemeni political factions voiced support Tuesday for Saudi-led forces fighting Iran-backed rebels, calling for safe zones in the war-t
Smoke billows from Noqum mountain after it was hit by an air strike in Yemen's capital Sana'a on May 19, 2015. Yemeni political factions voiced support Tuesday for Saudi-led forces fighting Iran-backed rebels, calling for safe zones in the war-torn nation allowing the exiled government to resume its duties. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH (AFP) - Yemeni political factions voiced support Tuesday for Saudi-led forces fighting Iran-backed rebels, calling for safe zones in the war-torn nation allowing the exiled government to resume its duties.

"We support this resistance to go on fighting (rebel) forces," exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi told about 300 delegates at the close of a three-day meeting in Riyadh.

He was referring to the Iran-backed Shiite Houthis - who boycotted the Riyadh talks - and their allies, forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Houthis, who have long complained of marginalisation in Yemen, seized control of large parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa in September last year.

Their southward push forced Hadi and his government to flee to Riyadh and prompted a Saudi-led coalition in March to launch air strikes against the Houthis.

A closing statement at the conference sought the quicker delivery of supplies to pro-government forces including "logistical equipment and weapons".

It also called for a safe zone where government institutions could resume their activities.

The conference attendees suggested an Arab peacekeeping force to secure Yemen's major cities, with UN Security Council approval, Transport Minister Bader Ba-Salama told AFP.

Hadi said "dialogue is the only way to take Yemen out of its deadlock", but added that any talks with rebels must take into account Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls on the Houthis to relinquish territory they have seized.

The April resolution asked all parties, particularly the Houthis, to adhere to measures including the outcome of an earlier "national dialogue" tasked with drawing up a new constitution.

The Riyadh conference was convened by Hadi and held in conjunction with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.