Mon, Feb 09, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Shiite leader defends Yemen takeover

FOREIGN RESISTANCE:Persian Gulf states, the UN Security Council and Turkey, as well as tribal leaders, rejected a government restructuring by the new rulers

AFP, SANA’A

Shiite Houthi movement supporters hold Yemeni national flags during a gathering in a Sana’a, Yemen, stadium where they watch a televised address by movement leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Yemeni Shiite leader Sheik Sayyid Abdul-Malik al-Houthi on Saturday defended his powerful militia’s establishment of transitional bodies to resolve Yemen’s political crisis, in the face of street protests and international criticism.

“This historic and responsible initiative is in the interest of the country... because it fills a political vacuum,” al-Houthi said in a televised address to his supporters gathered in a northern Sana’a stadium.

He said it was “in the interest of all Yemenis without exception,” including the separatists of southern Yemen.

The formation of a “presidential council,” announced on Friday, would also head off the threat from al-Qaeda, which has a strong presence in east and south Yemen, al-Houthi said.

“If al-Qaeda takes control of the country, it will plot against our brothers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf,” he said.

However, Yemen’s Gulf neighbors have condemned the moves by the Shiite militia, named Houthis after their leadership, saying that they “totally undermine” international and regional efforts to help resolve the impoverished nation’s crisis.

“The al-Houthi coup marks a grave and unacceptable escalation... and endangers the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen,” the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council said.

The six Sunni monarchies said their own security was linked to that of Yemen, and vowed to take “all the necessary measures to defend their interests,” without elaborating.

The Shiite militia overran Sana’a in September last year and seized the presidential palace and key government buildings last month, prompting Western-backed Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah to tender their resignations.

In an announcement on Saturday, the Houthis said that Hadi’s defense minister, Yemeni Major General Mahmoud al-Subaihi, would chair a newly formed “security commission,” which also included the outgoing interior minister.

The commission’s task would be to “lead the nation’s affairs until the establishment of a presidential council.”

The announcement was followed by a blast outside the Houthi-controlled presidential palace, and protests by thousands of people on the streets of Yemeni cities, witnesses said.

Armed partisans loyal to the Shiite militia fired into the air to disperse demonstrators in Sana’a and detained 17 of them in a second successive day of anti-Houthi protests.

A US official at a security conference in Munich said Washington and its Persian Gulf allies “don’t agree” with the Houthis’ transition plans.

UN Security Council president Liu Jieyi (劉結一) said its 15 members were ready to “take further steps” if UN-brokered negotiations to resolve Yemen’s political crisis were not resumed “immediately.”

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also critical, urging the Houthis “to act with common sense, restraint and responsibility at this critical stage in upholding the salvation of the country.”

On the home front in the mainly Sunni nation, influential tribal leaders in the oil-rich eastern province of Marib said they “rejected the authors of this coup.”

The Sunni Muslim party al-Islah, a major player in Yemeni politics, rejected the “unilateral” Houthi initiative and called for it to be scrapped in favor of a return to political dialogue.

Even the General People’s Congress of previously ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has become a Shiite ally, called for dialogue and said the moves were unconstitutional.

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