Houthi top official says group not against extending truce in Yemen

FILE PHOTO: Mahdi al-Mashat, who was appointed to succeed Saleh al-Samad as head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, attends the funeral procession held for al-Samad and his six body guards, killed by Saudi-led air strikes last week, at a mosque in Sanaa, Yemen April 28, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

CAIRO (Reuters) - The head of Yemen's Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, on Sunday said the group was not against extending a U.N.-brokered truce, despite describing it as "not encouraging enough".

The two-month nationwide truce between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group, the first since 2016, went into effect on April 2 and has largely held.

The United Nations is now seeking an extension to pave the way for inclusive political negotiations to end a seven-year war that has killed tens of thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis.

"We affirm that we are not against the extension of the truce, but what is not possible is accepting any truce in which the suffering of our people continues," Mashat said in a speech carried by Al Masirah TV, the main television news outlet run by the Houthi movement.

"I call for a genuine and encouraging cooperation that leads to improving the humanitarian and economic benefits of any upcoming truce," he added.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis after they ousted the government from the capital Sanaa.

The truce has offered a glimmer of hope in a country where the war and ensuing economic collapse have left millions facing starvation, and could also provide Riyadh with an exit from a costly conflict that is a point of tension with Washington.

The conflict is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Ahmad Elhamy; Editing by David Goodman, Kirsten Donovan)

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