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Iran, Pakistan urge peaceful end to Yemen conflict

AFP , Thursday 9 Apr 2015
Islamabad
Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, speaks as Pakistan's Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz looks on during their joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, April 8, 2015 (Photo: AP)
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Iran and Pakistan on Wednesday pledged to work to find a negotiated solution to the conflict in Yemen, as the Saudi-led air campaign against rebels nears its third week.

The military coalition of largely Sunni Muslim countries has been bombarding Houthi Shia rebels in Yemen in a bid to restore the government of fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Riyadh accuses Tehran, the major Shia power, of backing the Houthis, but Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif insisted his government wanted a swift end to the crisis, which has cost more than 640 lives since March 19.

Zarif laid out a four-stage plan for talks, calling for an immediate ceasefire followed by humanitarian assistance, dialogue among Yemenis and the formation of an "all-inclusive government".

"It's up to Yemenis to decide how to do this, we can only facilitate as neighbours... as countries with some influence one way or another," he said at a joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz.

"We can all help bring this about but these are the four lines on which my government operates."

Saudi Arabia has pressed Pakistan, a close and longstanding ally, to join its coalition against the Houthis but Islamabad has so far resisted.

Pakistan has called for dialogue and, in addition to Zarif's visit, held talks with Turkey on how to push this, while insisting it stood ready to defend Saudi territorial integrity.

Aziz appeared cool on Iran's idea of an immediate ceasefire, saying it "would consolidate the existing ground position", which currently has Houthis in control of large parts of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

Instead he called for "a more comprehensive resolution on facilitating an intra-Yemeni dialogue to create the possibliity of some kind of negotiated solution".

Saudi Arabia has vowed to bomb the rebels into surrender to prevent them establishing a pro-Iran state on its doorstep.

Zarif rejected the claims in Islamabad.

"We are not bombarding anyone," he said. "Our planes are not there hitting hospitals and bridges and flour factories."

Washington is backing the coalition and late Tuesday said it was stepping up weapons deliveries and intelligence sharing in support of the effort.

Pakistan's parliament is weighing up the Saudi request for troops.

Islamabad finds itself in an awkward position on Yemen, reluctant to offend the oil-rich kingdom with which it has long enjoyed close ties but also not wanting to get involved in a war that could fan sectarian tensions at home.

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