Egypt to host Yemen aid conference in March: minister

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will host an international conference in March to coordinate humanitarian aid for Yemen, which has been devastated by a civil war, a minister in Yemen's Saudi-backed government said on Tuesday. The United Nations said last week that at least 10,000 people had been killed in the past 18 months. It said some 14 million of Yemen's 26 million population needed food aid and 7 million were suffering from food insecurity. "We are now preparing for a conference ... to be held here in the city of Sharm al-Sheikh ... We are preparing for this conference fully so we can go to the aid organizations and civil society organizations and many donors," Abdel Raqeeb Fateh, minister of local administration, told a news conference in Cairo. The conflict pits the Iran-allied Houthis and supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is supported by an alliance of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Houthi rebels and Saleh supporters from taking control of the country. The Houthis and Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC), hold most of Yemen's northern half, while forces loyal to Hadi share control of the rest of the country with local tribes. Egypt, which supports the Saudi-backed government, has yet to comment about the conference and its aims. U.N.-sponsored peace talks ended in August without agreement, and the collapse in negotiations was followed by stepped-up fighting across the Arabian Peninsula country. In the news conference held at the Yemeni embassy in Cairo, ministers from the Saudi-backed government said the conflict had taken a heavy toll. (Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Lin Noueihed; Editing by Alison Williams)