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Yemeni President Hadi Denounces Houthi 'Coup'

  • Edward Yeranian

Anti-Houthi protesters demonstrate to show support for Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the central city of Ibb, March 21, 2015.

Anti-Houthi protesters demonstrate to show support for Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the central city of Ibb, March 21, 2015.

In his first address to the Yemeni people since escaping from house arrest in Sana'a, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi called on Houthi rebels to withdraw from government ministries that they occupy, remove their troops from the capital and return to the national dialogue sponsored by the U.N.

Hadi's address to the nation Saturday came as Houthi militiamen fired at protesters in Yemen's third-largest city of Taiz, causing panic. Arab media report the Houthis now occupy the special-forces camp on its outskirts.

Hadi gave his televised speech from an undisclosed location in the southern city of Aden, several days after forces loyal to the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to storm the airport and later bombed the presidential palace.

The Yemeni president denounced the “coup” by Houthi militiamen, who occupied Sana'a in September, later surrounding his home and placing him under house arrest. He fled to Aden last month, he said, to defend Yemen's “legitimate institutions.”

He said he came to Aden not to split the country, but to promote national dialogue. He added that he decided to remain in office not for personal ambition, but out of a sense of duty to the nation to prevent economic collapse and strife.

Hadi went on to insist that all parties, including the Houthis, participate in U.N.-sponsored talks in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, aimed at transforming the country into a federation. The Houthi rebels, he stressed, must also end their “coup.”

He said armed fighters must withdraw from government ministries, pull out of the capital and other cities, and place all heavy weapons in military camps. He said that all measures taken since September must be reversed and U.N. resolutions must be enforced.

The U.N. Security Council planned an emergency meeting Sunday on Yemen.

Also Saturday, Yemeni officials said the United States was pulling its remaining forces out of Yemen, one day after suicide bombers killed at least 137 people at two mosques in Sana'a. The development was not immediately confirmed by the U.S. military.

About 100 U.S. special forces are stationed at Al Anad air base in the south, from which the U.S. has launched drones against al-Qaida targets inside Yemen.

In Washington, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy, Mohammed al-Basha, tweeted Saturday that he was "hearing the loud and clear beating of the drums of war" in Yemen.

According to Georgetown University's Paul Sullivan, despite efforts to stop Yemen from unraveling, the country may have already gone over the brink.

“I wouldn't say the Houthis, or President Hadi or former President Saleh are in charge. This is a country that is spinning out of control. It's a country heading towards failure, if not already there. It's almost as if Yemen is showing us that the unification of the country [in 1990] did not work,” he said.

Houthi rebel leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi was due to give a televised speech Saturday afternoon, but appeared to postpone it after Hadi spoke.

The Houthis' TV station devoted much of its airtime to images of the bombings at the two Zaidi Shi'ite mosques in Sana'a.