Yemen clashes kill nearly 40
as UN envoy presses rebel talks

SANAA - Fighting between Shiite rebels and Sunni Islamists backed by troops killed nearly 40 people outside Sanaa Thursday, as the UN envoy huddled in the rebel stronghold to try to end Yemen's political crisis.


Fighting raged between the rebels, known as Huthis or Ansarullah, and fighters of the Islah (Reform) party in Shamlan, just north of the capital, where rebels have been camped for weeks.


It has spread to Iman University of religion which belongs to top Islah cleric Abdulmajid al-Zindani, they said.


"More than 38 people were killed and dozens more wounded," a security official told AFP, his numbers confirmed by hospital sources.


Most of the casualties occurred in clashes after tribal fighters ambushed a rebel convoy on the road linking Shamlan and the university, with a tribal source saying 30 Huthis had also been taken prisoner.


Thursday's deaths brought to 81 the number registered in three days of fighting.


Meanwhile, UN envoy Jamal Benomar spent a second day in the rebel bastion of Saada where he had flown Wednesday and held three hours of talks with rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi that he called "constructive and positive."


The two men met again Thursday evening, with sources close to the talks saying they still face hurdles, mainly over the question of dismantling the camps set up in and around the capital.


The rebels earlier rejected an offer by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to name a new premier and reduce a controversial fuel price rise, two core rebel demands.


The Zaidi Shiite community, to which the Huthi rebels belong, is a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but a majority in the northern highlands, including in the Sanaa area.


Analysts say they are trying to establish themselves as the main political force in the region.