UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. envoy to Yemen says the country's president and Shiite rebels have agreed to discuss the group's disarming.
Jamal Benomar told reporters Thursday that the Hawthis agreed to a new initiative by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to promote dialogue related to the rebels' "disarmament, demobilization and reintegration."
The Shiite Hawthis led a six-year insurgency in the north that officially ended in 2010, but a recent escalation in fighting with ultraconservative Sunni tribesmen turned several northern cities into war zones.
Benomar also warned that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula "remains a very real and lethal threat" in Yemen.
On Sunday and Monday, the country's military, reportedly backed by U.S. drone strikes, hit a major al-Qaida base in the remote southern mountains, killing 55 militants. Hadi on Wednesday said the several of the group's leaders were among the dead.
The United States has been hitting al-Qaida positions in the southern Arabian nation heavily with drone strikes over the past two years, after the group was driven out of several southern cities it took over in 2011.
Benomar, who briefed the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, said the issue of drone strikes did come up in the closed-door meeting.
Yemen has struggled with transitioning to democracy since Arab Spring protests in 2011 forced out longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hadi's government is promoting national reconciliation, but it remains fragile.
Benomar said Yemen's political transition "has moved to the next stage" and that a draft constitution will be finalized in coming months.
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