Jun 2, 5:49 PM EDT

Aide: Yemen's president willing to meet rebels in UN talks



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Aide: Yemen's president willing to meet rebels in UN talks

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Yemen's exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has agreed to travel to Geneva for peace talks with Shiite rebels who have taken over large swaths of his country, an aide to the embattled leader said Tuesday. A U.N. official said it is hoped the talks will begin by June 10.

Hadi had previously insisted that the rebels, known as Houthis, give up their weapons and surrender territory before entering into talks with them.

The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said the decision came after talks with Yemeni leaders in Riyadh and with U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

The Geneva talks had been previously postponed. No new date for the U.N.-led talks has been officially announced. The U.N. official spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the official was not authorized to speak publicly before an announcement.

Yemen's conflict pits Hadi against the Iranian-backed Houthis -- who seized the capital, Sanaa, last year -- and military units loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. A Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes against the Houthis and their allies on March 26, shortly after Hadi fled a rebel advance on the south.

The coalition says Iran has provided military aid to the Houthis, charges denied by Tehran and the rebels.

Saudi-led airstrikes hit the rebel-held General Army Command building in the center of Sanaa for the first time on Tuesday, Yemeni officials said.

They said strikes also hit rebel areas outside Sanaa and in the southern city of Aden, as well as several locations in the city of Taiz, including the command center of the 25th Mechanized Brigade.

They said airstrikes also targeted several Houthi gatherings in the city of Dhale, as well as sites in their northern stronghold, Saada.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters, said three civilians died in the Sanaa attack and nearby homes were damaged.

The airstrikes and ground fighting have killed more than 1,000 civilians and displaced a half million people, according to the U.N.

A U.N. Security Council statement on Tuesday expressed deep concern about Yemen's "grave situation," called on all parties to take part in U.N.-led talks without preconditions as soon as possible and supported the secretary-general's call for a further humanitarian pause to allow in badly needed aid such as food and fuel.

A previous five-day pause was violated repeatedly, and aid groups said it was hardly sufficient to reach millions in the Arab world's poorest country.

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Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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