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Yemen's Houthis says sent list of negotiators to U.N. for peace talks

Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi (3rd L) preforms prayers during the funeral of the governor of Yemen's southern port city of Aden, Jaafar Mohammed Saad, in Aden December 8, 2015 in this handout photo provided by Yemen's Presidency. REUTERS/Yemen's Presidency/Handout via Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) - The leader of Yemen’s Houthis said on Thursday his movement had given the United Nations the names of its delegates to U.N.-sponsored peace talks due to start in Switzerland next week.

The Iran-allied Houthis and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Saudi-backed government have accepted a U.N. invitation to hold the talks aimed at ending nearly nine months of fighting that has killed almost 6,000 people.

“We handed over the names of our negotiating delegation to the UN,” Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said in a statement posted on the group’s Facebook page.

The statement said a draft agenda for talks had been agreed with the United Nations and called for a “serious and responsible dialogue.”

Forces loyal to Hadi, backed by air strikes and ground forces from a mainly Gulf Arab coalition, have been locked for nine months in a civil war with the Houthis, who rule the capital Sanaa and other cities.

The Houthi group says it led a revolution against the corrupt government of Hadi, but his administration and Gulf allies accuse them of carrying out a coup and advancing Iranian influence in the Arab world.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi said on Wednesday that a seven-day ceasefire expected to start with peace talks next week would be renewed if the Houthi militias abided by it.

Also on Wednesday, unknown attackers blew up an abandoned Catholic Church in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden days after Islamic State militants assassinated the city’s governor.

Hadi’s embattled government is based in Aden but has struggled to impose its authority there since its forces, backed by Gulf Arab troops, expelled the Houthi fighters from the city.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Tom Finn; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Tom Heneghan