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Yemeni government says cease-fire remains in place

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Rebels to participate in a national dialogue sought by president
  • Saleh willing to form a coalition with the opposition bloc
  • Shiite militants captured soldiers, tribal members at outpost

(CNN) -- A spokesman for the government of Yemen said Thursday that a cease-fire remains in place, despite clashes earlier in the week with Houthi rebels as well as the capture of Yemeni soldiers.

Mohammed Albasha, spokesman and press attache for the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Washington, said the rebels will participate in a national dialogue called for by Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"To the best of my knowledge, at least three senior Houthi representatives have been invited to participate in the national dialogue being organized by the president," Albasha told CNN. "The dialogue is aimed at resolving local conflicts" between the ruling coalition and the opposition bloc, he said.

He called the efforts "constructive steps towards restoring trust and peace building" and said Saleh was willing to form a coalition cabinet with the opposition bloc.

Albasha's remarks came two days after Shiite militants in Yemen captured dozens of soldiers and local tribal members and occupied a military post.

Houthi insurgents began releasing captured soldiers and tribesmen after the armed clashes, Albasha said.

Though the militants -- Houthi rebels in northern Yemen -- began a revolt in 2004, a cease-fire has been in effect since February. The conflict is believed to be both separatist -- over who will have power in the area -- and sectarian -- over whether Shiite Islam will dominate, even though most Yemenis are Sunni. The rebels are supporters of slain Shiite cleric Hussein al-Houthi.

The cease-fire conditions include clearing mines, not interfering with elected local officials, releasing civilians and military personnel, abiding by Yemeni law, returning looted items, and ending attacks within the country's northern neighbor, Saudi Arabia.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this story.