Yemen’s president on Saturday rejected a UN peace proposal for his war-battered country, as rebels said air strikes by his Saudi-led coalition allies killed 17 civilians.
Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government have been locked since 2014 in deadly battles with Iran-backed Houthi rebels who overran Sanaa late that year.
The conflict escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign to push back the rebels.
The war has left nearly 7,000 people dead, mostly civilians, according to the United Nations which had been struggling to convince the warring parties to implement a ceasefire and revive a stalled political process.
The latest peace proposal submitted by UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was rejected by Hadi who even refused to receive it as he met the mediator in Riyadh.
The contents of the roadmap which the envoy already presented to the rebels on Tuesday have not been made public. Informed sources say it calls for agreement on naming a new vice president after the rebels withdraw from Sanaa and other cities and hand over heavy weapons to a third party.
Hadi would then transfer power to the vice president who would appoint a new prime minister to form a government in which the north and south of Yemen would have equal representation.
A statement by the government quoted Hadi as saying the roadmap “only opens a door towards more suffering and war and is not a map for peace”. It cited Hadi as saying the plan “rewards the putschists while punishing the Yemeni people and legitimacy”.
It was unclear how Hadi’s Arab backers would react to his refusal, especially after a key coalition member, the United Arab Emirates, hailed the proposal on Thursday as a “political solution for the Yemeni crisis”.
In August, US Secretary of State John Kerry outlined a similar plan which offered the Huthi rebels participation in government in exchange for an end to violence and a surrender of weapons to a third party.
Gulf states, most of which are members of the coalition, had “agreed unanimously” with that initiative, Kerry said at the time from the Saudi city of Jeddah.
But Saudi Arabia has not commented on the UN envoy’s latest proposal and the rebels have yet to respond.
Warring parties in Yemen are under mounting international pressure to end the conflict that has left the already-impoverished country grappling with increasing cases of malnutrition and a spread of disease.
The coalition, for its part, is under pressure over for the high civilian death toll from its bombing campaign.
On Saturday, four air strikes hit three residential buildings killing 17 people and wounding seven others in the battleground town of Salo, southeast of third-city Taez, according to rebel-controlled media.
There was no immediate comment from the coalition. But a local Yemeni official loyal to the government said the coalition air strikes had hit three adjacent homes by mistake.
“All those in the houses were killed,” he said adding that a child and seven women were among the dead.
Central bank bombing foiled
Those killed in Saturday’s air strikes numbered among the three million Yemenis displaced by the war since last. Hadi himself resides in Riyadh along with most senior officials while security in second city Aden, where the government had set up temporary headquarters, remains fragile.
Guards in Aden on Saturday thwarted a suicide attack on the central bank, opening fire on the bomber’s vehicle and blowing it up before it reached the building, a security official said.
The bank has been based in Aden since Hadi last month ordered its relocation from Sanaa, accusing the rebels of running down Yemen’s foreign reserves.
Five guards were wounded when the bomber’s vehicle blew up around 30 metres (yards) from the bank building, the security official said. The bank’s relocation has been a major blow to the rebels, forcing them to halt salary payments to state employees in the large areas of the country they control.
A UN report released in August found that the rebels and their allies were diverting about $100 million a month from the central bank, and that its foreign reserves had dwindled to $1.3 billion from about $4 billion in November 2014.