U.N. chief confirms delay in Yemen peace talks

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked his special envoy to Yemen to postpone Geneva peace talks planned for May 28, though he hopes to convene negotiations aimed at ending the war as soon as possible, the United Nations said on Tuesday. "The secretary-general is disappointed that it has not been possible to commence such an important initiative at the soonest possible date and reiterates his call for all parties to engage in United Nations-facilitated consultations in good faith and without preconditions," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. Dujarric said the U.N. decision to postpone the talks was in response to a request from the government of Yemen and other parties to the conflict to have "more time to prepare." An aide to Yemen's president had previously said the negotiations were postponed indefinitely. A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Iran-allied Houthi rebels for months and supporting Yemeni fighters opposing the Houthis in battle lines drawn across the country. Iran denies arming Yemen's Houthis and has criticized the Saudi-led coalition's refusal to let Iranian cargo ships and planes into Yemen to deliver what it says is only humanitarian aid. Dujarric said Ban has instructed his Yemen envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, "to redouble his efforts to consult with the Yemen government, Yemen's political groupings and countries in the region with the aim of producing a comprehensive ceasefire and the resumption of peaceful dialogue." "(Ban) is acutely aware that a postponement or delay in a return to the political process will exacerbate a steadily deepening humanitarian crisis," Dujarric said. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Leslie Adler)