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Originally published June 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 17, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Yemen's government, Shiite rebels negotiate end to 3-year conflict

San'A, Yemen — Yemen's government and Shiite rebels have reached a cease-fire in a three-year fight that has claimed 4,000 lives this...

The Associated Press

SAN'A, Yemen — Yemen's government and Shiite rebels have reached a cease-fire in a three-year fight that has claimed 4,000 lives this year, representatives of both sides said Saturday.

The deal, reached under mediation from Qatar, requires rebels to hand over their heavy weaponry to the government, a Yemeni security official said. The government agreed to release rebel prisoners, pay for the reconstruction of villages ravaged by the fighting and help displaced people return home, the official said.

The Shiite rebellion began in Yemen's north in June 2004 when cleric Hussein Badr Eddin al-Hawthi ordered his followers to take up arms against the government. Al-Hawthi was killed in clashes later that year.

The rebels say the government is corrupt and too closely allied with the West. The government accused al-Hawthi of sedition, forming an illegal armed group and inciting anti-American sentiment.

Abdel-Malek al-Hawthi, the current rebel chief and brother of the slain leader, said the rebels had agreed to lay down their arms.

"We announce the halting of the fight and commitment to the articles of the agreement," al-Hawthi said in a statement.

State television said Saturday that, under the agreement, al-Hawthi and other rebel leaders would have to move to the Qatari capital, Doha, for an unspecified period and refrain from political and media activities against the Yemeni government.

A tribal clan leader, Abdul Bari Talhan, reached by phone in the northern region of Saada, said fighting had stopped Saturday morning, with only celebratory gunfire heard.

The area turned into a war zone after clashes erupted in late January between rebel fighters and thousands of government troops backed by tanks, artillery and helicopters.

The government call its actions an attempt to curb terrorism. Tribal leaders in the northern region say more than 30,000 residents have been displaced by the fighting.

Al-Hawthi has denied allegations that his group, known as the Young Faithful Believers, received funds from Libya or predominantly Shiite Iran.

Information from Reuters is included in this report.

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