UN prepares ground for Yemen peace talks as battles flare

UN envoy Martin Griffiths was preparing Tuesday to head to war-torn Yemen to lay the groundwork for peace talks in Sweden, after fresh fighting shook the flashpoint city of Hodeida.

Griffiths -- whose efforts at kickstarting peace talks failed in September -- is again trying to get the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government to the negotiating table by the end of the year.

He is expected to meet with Huthi officials in the capital Sanaa on Wednesday.

Both sides have in the past week expressed their support for the envoy and his mission to hold talks in Stockholm, but fierce clashes erupted in the Red Sea city of Hodeida late Monday after a lull.

Military officials said that the battles were the worst since loyalists halted an offensive last week, and were concentrated in the eastern part of the city where rebels fired artillery.

Pro-government forces struck back, supported by warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition which launched a dozen raids, the sources said.

According to Huthi-run media, clashes lasted up to four hours and resulted in fatalities.

The city was relatively calm on Tuesday morning, according to an AFP correspondent who spoke to residents by telephone from Khokha about 100 kilometres (62 miles) away.  (AFP) 

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