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Saudi mulling truce offer by Yemen Shi'ite rebels

Saudi Arabia is considering a truce offer by Yemeni Shi'ite rebels to end fighting with the kingdom's forces in the Yemen-Saudi border area, and plans to take a decision later on Tuesday, a Saudi defence ministry spokesman said.

world Updated: Jan 26, 2010 16:46 IST

Saudi Arabia is considering a truce offer by Yemeni Shi'ite rebels to end fighting with the kingdom's forces in the Yemen-Saudi border area, and plans to take a decision later on Tuesday, a Saudi defence ministry spokesman said.

The leader of Yemen's Shi'ite rebels offered on Monday a ceasefire to Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, and said his fighters would withdraw from the kingdom's territory to avoid more civilian casualties.

"The truce offer is being examined and we will make an official decision later today," Saudi defence ministry spokesman General Ibrahim al-Malek said.

The offer by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi followed three months of border fighting between Shi'ite rebels and Saudi forces which have used aircraft to bomb rebel targets.

"To avoid more bloodshed and to stop aggression on civilians ... we offer this initiative," Houthi said in an audio recording posted on the Internet.

Houthi warned that if Saudi Arabia did not end its hostilities in return, the rebels would wage an "open war" on the kingdom.

Yemen's central government has been fighting the rebels on and off since 2004, but the conflict intensified last summer when Sanaa launched Operation Scorched Earth to quash the latest upsurge in violence.

Saudi Arabia stepped into the fray in November when rebels seized some Saudi territory, prompting Riyadh to wage a major military offensive against them. The conflict in northern Yemen has displaced around 200,000 people, according to the United Nations.