Sana'a streets empty as Saleh's forces try to take capital from Houthis

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He says a new page must be opened in relations (with Saudi Arabia) and neighborly ties restored, putting an end to all (the animosity) that has taken place and that amicable relations can resume once there is a cease-fire (with the Saudi-led coalition) and their blockade of Yemeni ports and airports is lifted.

In a televised address, Saleh called for new relations with the Saudi-led coalition, which he and the Houthis have been battling for nearly three years (since March 2015).

Houthis and Saleh loyalists jointly overran Sanaa and much of the country in 2014, forcing the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Saleh's supporters managed on Saturday to seize control of several embassies and government buildings from the Houthis.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Saturday it was confident that leaders of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's General People's Congress Party (GPC) would return to the Arab fold.

Stressing that Yemen's interests lie in avoiding sedition, the Houthi leader called on citizens and tribal fighters to focus on the battle against the invading Saudi regime and stay away from any provocative acts.

The capital Sanaa has been shaken by escalating in-violence this week between supporters of Saleh and the Houthis, with more than 40 fighters killed and injured and residents now fearing a new front in an already devastating war.

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Street fighting in the war-wracked country comes amid heightened regional tensions, most notably after Houthi rebels early last month launched a missile that was intercepted near the Saudi capital.

A statement issued by the Yemeni presidency on Saturday evening said they supported all parties facing the coup allies, which they described as "an arm of the Persian Iranian project in Yemen" in the first comment on former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's call for a popular uprising against the Houthis.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, tells VOA that former president Saleh has a "strong political instinct" and that he made his move against the Houthis at a time when the situation on the ground is favorable.

A coalition statement said the decision to "take the lead and to side with their people will free Yemen of. militias loyal to Iran".

However, in a statement, Saleh's party, the GPC, ordered their supporters to defy Houthi's orders and to "defend their homeland, their revolution, and their unity".

Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the rebels, called on Saleh to "show more wisdom and maturity" in a separate statement.

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