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Yemen rejected a ceasefire offer from Shi’ite rebels on Sunday and said fighting was continuing, as neighboring Saudi Arabia accused the insurgents of mounting sniper attacks inside its territory. The conflict with the northern rebels, who complain of social, religious and economic discrimination in the southern Arabian state, has rumbled on since 2004, but intensified last year and drew in oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

Yemen is also struggling against al Qaeda and southern secessionists, and Western powers fear it could become a failed state.

Yemeni soldiers clashed with rebels in the northern provinces of Malahidh and Saada, killing 20, including a leader responsible for training, state media reported on Sunday.

Rebel leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi said on Saturday he was prepared to accept government conditions for a truce, days after he made a ceasefire offer to Saudi Arabia and said his fighters had withdrawn from Saudi territory.

But a government official said on Sunday: “The Houthi offer is rejected as it does not vow to end attacks on Saudi Arabia and because it sets as a condition an end to military operations (by the government) first.” Reuters

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