Gulf Countries Denounce Houthi Takeover in Yemen

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Published Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Gulf Cooperation Council has accused Houthi rebels of staging a coup in Yemen after they announced they were dissolving parliament and forming a new government, Kuwait's official news agency said on Saturday.

The opposition of the GCC, a six-nation bloc comprising energy-rich Gulf states, may signal growing isolation for the impoverished Yemen and reflects the hostility of its Gulf neighbours towards the Houthis.

"This Houthi coup is a dangerous escalation which we reject and is unacceptable. It totally contradicts the spirit of pluralism and coexistence which Yemen has known," the GCC was quoted as saying by KUNA news agency.

The GCC called the takeover a "threat...to the security and stability of the region and the interests of its people."

Yemen has been in political limbo since Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah resigned after the Houthis seized the presidential palace and confined the head of state to his residence in a struggle to tighten control over Yemen last month.

On Friday, the movement dissolved parliament and said it would set up a new interim government.

Abdel Malik al-Houthi, the group's leader, said on Saturday he was open to all parties playing a role in Yemen's future.

"Our hand is extended to every political force in this country ... the space is open for partnership, cooperation and brotherhood and now everybody bears their responsibility for building, not destruction," he said in a televised speech.

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

But he warned: "Any move which targets this people, its economy, security or stability is unacceptable, and the great Yemeni people will confront any such conspiracies."

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, Houthi said.

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

The steady expansion of Houthis has angered al-Qaeda’s powerful Yemeni branch, which views Shias as heretics and Houthis as pawns of Iran.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is active in several Yemeni provinces, mainly in the south and southeast, where repeated government military campaigns drove the network's militants out of key cities they once controlled.

AQAP was born out of a 2009 merger of its franchises in al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden's native Saudi Arabia and his ancestral homeland in Yemen.

Meanwhile, parties from across Yemen's political spectrum declined to support the Houthis' moves.

Islah, Islamists and major tribal leaders making up the country's main opposition party, said the measures amounted to a unilateral "coup" and called for them to be cancelled.

The former ruling party of Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh expressed its "regret" in an official statement, saying it violated an international plan for a move to democracy after Saleh's exit amid Arab Spring protests in 2011.

Several governors from Yemen's restive southern provinces said they rejected the takeover, they said in a joint statement.

The instability in Yemen has raised fears that the country, next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and key shipping routes from the Suez Canal to the Gulf, could become a failed state along the lines of Somalia, as it struggles to recover following the ousting of Saleh.

Tensions

Tensions ran high in the capital on Saturday, with armed Houthis manning checkpoints near main government buildings.

A rudimentary bomb exploded outside the central Sanaa residence of the former prime minister, now home to Mohammed al-Houthi, a top official in the Houthi military wing.
Three Houthis were wounded, eyewitnesses said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but AQAP have repeatedly clashed with the increasingly powerful Houthis, raising fears of an all-out sectarian war.

Separately, thousands of demonstrators gathered in three cities in central Yemen to protest against the Houthis seizing power.

Meanwhile, four Houthi fighters were killed in a suspected AQAP attack in the southern al-Bayda province on Friday, while army forces clashed with tribesmen and AQAP fighters in a neighboring district on Saturday.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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