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Yemeni Rebel Leader: Ready to Accept Cease-fire

A rebel leader from northern Yemen says he is ready to agree to a cease-fire with the government.

In an audio recording posted on Yemeni Web sites Saturday, Shi'ite leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said he would accept a series of conditions set out by the government late last year.

The government offered the rebels a permanent cease-fire in September as long as they agreed to withdraw from the region, end attacks, and stop interfering in local government.

Shi'ites from the Zaidi sect have been fighting government troops in northern Yemen since 2004, accusing the government of denying them civil, economic and religious rights.

Also Saturday, Yemeni authorities arrested a suspected al-Qaida militant. Officials said he was preparing to carry out a suicide bombing in the eastern Hadramaut region.

The interior ministry said Saleh Abd al-Habib Saleh al-Shaush was wearing an explosive belt when he was detained. His exact target is still unknown, but the ministry says it was to be a major economic facility.

Yemen has recently attracted international focus after al-Qaida militants there claimed responsibility for a failed bombing attempt on a U.S.-bound passenger jet on Christmas Day (December 25).

The incident led Yemeni authorities to increase operations against al-Qaida.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.