Houthis Say They Seek Peaceful Power Transition in Yemen

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Yemeni members of a local popular committee, which consists of a group of volunteers who maintain security in their region, stand in the street, one holding an anti tank rocket launcher, in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, on January 27, 2015. AFP

Published Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The leader of Yemen's Houthis — who seized the capital Sanaa — said on Tuesday his group was seeking a peaceful transfer of power after the resignation of President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and urged all factions to work together to solve the ongoing crisis.

Abdel-Malek al-Houthi's conciliatory remarks in a televised speech came less than an hour after his supporters released Hadi's chief of staff, whom they abducted last week, in an attempt to gain leverage in a dispute with Hadi over the constitution.

The kidnapping of Hadi’s chief of staff, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, plunged Yemen deeper into a political crisis, resulting in clashes between the Houthis and Hadi's presidential guards which prompted the president and the government to resign on Thursday.

Political factions in Yemen, including the Houthis, are currently trying to agree what to do after Hadi's resignation, which has left a power vacuum in a country that borders the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

In his speech, Houthi warned against allowing Yemen to be pushed to be pushed to the brink and said that consultations were proceeding under the auspices of the United Nations to resolve the country's standoff.

"We are seeking a peaceful transfer of power on the basis of partnership," Houthi said in a speech broadcast on the group's al-Maseerah television. "Let everyone go towards cooperation instead of clashing, arguing and wrestling."

He added that resolutions made during nearly a year of national dialogue organized by Hadi in 2013 and an agreement signed after armed Houthis captured Sanaa last September would also be the basis for any agreement.

Describing Hadi's resignation as a "maneuver", Houthi said political parties, with UN support, have been holding consultations to bring about a "peaceful transfer of power."

The Houthis emerged as the dominant faction in Yemen by seizing Sanaa in September and dictating terms to Hadi, whom they held as a virtual prisoner at his home last week after clashing with his security guards.

Hadi, a former general, has blamed the Houthis' control of Sanaa for impeding his attempt to steer Yemen toward stability after years of turmoil and tribal unrest.

In a statement, UN special envoy Jamal Benomar welcomed bin Mubarak's release, saying "this news would help reduce tensions and enable progress" in the negotiations he was facilitating between political parties.

Benomar said he urged the Houthis to "undertake steps that would be in the best interest of all political sides and the people of Yemen."

Meanwhile, the 57 MPs from south Yemen announced they will boycott the 301-member parliament in protest of the Houthis' "coup" and actions in Sanaa, holding the militia "completely responsible" for the safety of Hadi and other officials in Sanaa.

Houthi criticized the "provocative acts by some southern forces that lead to chaos."

Witnesses said the southern armed pro-government militia known as the Popular Committees clashed on Tuesday with troops loyal to the Houthis in the main southern city of Aden, although no casualties were reported.

US-Houthis discussions

Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday US officials are holding discussions with representatives of the Houthis.

But the discussions with the Houthis do not amount to an agreement to share intelligence on al-Qaeda in Yemen, Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.

"Given the political uncertainty, it's fair to say that US government officials are in communication with various parties in Yemen about what is a very fluid and complex political situation," Kirby said.

"It is also accurate to say that the Houthis, as participants in ... these events, will certainly have reason to want to speak to international partners and the international community about their intentions and about how this process is going to unfold," he added.

"The US government is participating in those discussions."

But asked if the Americans and Houthis were sharing intelligence on the movements of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Kirby stressed: "There's no intelligence sharing regimen with the Houthis. There's no formal agreement to do that, and you need those kinds of formal agreements in order to be able to do that."

Washington has vowed to keep up its fight against AQAP despite the turmoil gripping Yemen. Washington has long relied on Yemen's government to help it target al-Qaeda and a small contingent of US special forces is deployed to the country to help its army battle AQAP, which US intelligence officials view as the most dangerous branch of the jihadist network.

The United States conducted a drone strike on Monday, killing three in a desert area east of Sanaa. US claimed they were members of AQAP.

But on Tuesday, the National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV) announced Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman, said to be between 11 and 13 years old, was one of three people reported to be killed in Monday's drone strike. It said his father and older brother were killed in a 2011 drone strike, and a third brother was wounded in another drone attack.

Critics of US drone strikes have denounced the impact the attacks have had on Yemeni civilians, who have been killed or seen their homes destroyed. The United States counts any male of military age killed in drone strikes as “militants,” regardless of their actual involvement with al-Qaeda.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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