Yemen's exiled president plays down coming peace talks

Damage is seen at the Yemeni army's main headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, June 7, 2015. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemen's exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has played down next week's talks in Geneva between his country's warring parties, saying they will only address ways to implement a Security Council resolution demanding his enemies retreat. Hadi and his government's host, Saudi Arabia, have insisted that any talks center on resolution 2216, which demands that the Iranian-backed Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh quit cities they seized since last September and surrender heavy weapons. But with the Houthis still entrenched across populated parts of western Yemen despite 11 weeks of Saudi-led airstrikes, international pressure has grown for Hadi to accept a compromise and negotiate with the Houthis and Saleh's representatives. "These are not talks, it is only a discussion to implement U.N. Security Council resolution 2216, how to implement it on the ground," Hadi said in an interview with the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television. He denied the United Nations-sponsored meeting due to start on June 14 was aimed at wider reconciliation or finding a political compromise to end the conflict. Hadi says 2216, adopted in April, had created a framework for peace by demanding that the Houthis leave Yemeni cities they had seized since last year and allow his government to resume work from Sanaa. The Houthis have rejected the resolution, however, saying Hadi's internationally recognized but exiled government has lost its legitimacy. Hadi also repeated accusations that Iran was systematically interfering in his country's affairs by backing the Houthis. "What Iran does at (my country) is more dangerous than al Qaeda," Hadi said in the interview, parts of which were broadcast on Monday. Hadi fled Yemen and took refuge in Saudi Arabia in March after the Houthis closed in on the southern city of Aden, where he had fled after escaping house arrest imposed on him by the militia a month earlier. The president, who came to office in 2012 elections after Saleh was forced to step down by mass protests against his 33 years in office, has long accused Iran of meddling in Yemen's affairs. "I had asked Iran: 'lift your hand from Yemen'," Hadi said. "I did not bring this from vacuum. We caught people who had been trained by the (Iranian) Revolutionary Guard. They were jailed in our prisons," he added. (This story has been refiled to correct name of country in paragraph nine) (Reporting by Omar Fahmy, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Angus McDowall and Catherine Evans)