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Yemen in Turmoil as President Resigns

  • VOA News

Yemen's political future remained uncertain Friday, with parliament reportedly planning to decide Sunday whether to accept the resignation of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Hadi, Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and his Cabinet tendered their resignations Thursday, days after Houthi militia besieged key government positions in the capital, demanding changes to a draft constitution.

Citing a Facebook post by the prime minister, the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying the government does not want to be involved in "an unconstructive political maze."

Both pro- and anti-Houthi rallies were held across Yemen Friday, but reports from the capital said the situation was relatively calm.

Speaking from Sanaa on Friday, U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar called on all parties to "engage in inclusive consultations with each other that will produce an agreement on how to move forward from the current crisis."

Earlier, Benomar said the political crisis would be resolved only if rival groups honored earlier agreements calling for power-sharing and an end to violence.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, expressed concern about the security situation in Yemen.

"Governance has been challenged by an al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist organization that has launched attacks inside and outside of the country, by a secessionist movement in the south, and most recently by a rebel movement in the north that has now spread across the country and challenged the sovereignty of the entire state," he said.

Yemen's central government is a key U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for this month's terror attacks in France. Houthi rebels are opposed to AQAP, as well as the United States.

The Houthi motto is: "God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam." Analysts say this has led to doubts about the extent to which they would be willing to work with Western countries.

Barbara Bodine, the former U.S. ambassador to Yemen and now the director of Georgetown's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, told VOA that Houthi concerns are primarily domestic and aimed at getting the Yemeni government "to do what it is supposed to do."

"They're not the same as al-Qaida," she said. "This is a domestic-insurgency part of the process as opposed to an outside-the-process terrorist group. We need to talk to them."

On the ground in Yemen, it is not clear who is in charge. Under Yemen's constitution, the speaker of parliament would serve as interim head of state. The current speaker, Yahia al-Rai, is an ally of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Houthis and government officials had appeared to reach agreement Wednesday, under which the rebels were to withdraw and release the president's chief of staff, who remains in the militia's custody. In exchange, Hadi, at the time surrounded by the rebels, pledged to scrap the draft constitutional changes.

The Houthi rebels seized de facto control of the capital in September, moving beyond their traditional rebellion in the north.

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