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Middle East

Yemen to form new govt after rebel pressure

A handout picture released by the Yemeni Presidency shows Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi chairing a meeting of pro-government political parties in Sanaa on September 2, 2014. Hadi is to replace Yemen's unity government and cut a controversial fuel price hike, two demands of Shiite Huthi rebels, in an initiative announced. AFP PHOTO / YEMENI PRESIDENCY / HO

SANAA: Yemen’s president is to name a new prime minister and cut a disputed fuel price hike as he bids to head off escalating tension with Shiite rebels, an official said Tuesday. Faced with increased pressure from the Houthi rebels and a deepening political crisis, President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi “has agreed to go ahead with the initiative and form a new national unity government,” his media adviser Fares Saqqaf told AFP.

The initiative comes after Zaidi Shiite rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi Sunday urged supporters to press on with a campaign in Sanaa to oust the government.

Zaidi fighters have been camped around the capital for the past two weeks and held protests almost throughout August to push for the government’s resignation, accusing it of corruption.

The rebels’ spokesman, Mohammad Abdulsalam, dismissed the initiative as an attempt to “skirt around the demands of the Yemeni people,” writing on his Facebook page that the rebels “do not agree to it.”

The rebel leader has yet to officially respond, though a committee organizing rebel sit-ins in the capital called for protests Wednesday against the initiative.

Hadi will “assign within a week” a new prime minister to form a “national unity government,” according to the text of the proposal published on the official Saba news agency. The president himself will name the defense, interior, foreign and finance ministers in the cabinet that will also include Houthis and members of the separatist Southern Movement.

And the controversial fuel price hike implemented in July would also be “reviewed” downward by about 30 percent, while the anticipated government should work to increase minimum wages, according to the initiative. Saba said the proposal was approved at a meeting of pro-government political parties chaired by Hadi.

“We hope the Houthis will take part in this process, but, in any case, the president will go ahead in implementing these points that are widely backed by Yemenis,” Saqqaf said.

Analysts say the rebels are trying to establish themselves as the dominant political force in the northern highlands, where the Zaidi Shiites are the majority community.

The initiative demands the dismantling of Houthis’ encampments within and around the capital, describing those as a “cause for tension.” It also demands bringing the northern province of Amran, where rebels have expanded in the past few months, under full government control, as well as ending confrontations in the nearby province of Jawf.

Yemen has been locked in a protracted transition since longtime strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February 2012 after a deadly 11-month uprising.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 03, 2014, on page 9.

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