Sunday, April 26, 2015

Yemeni Imperialist-backed Minister Rejects Call for Dialog Among Warring Sides
Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:10AM

The foreign minister for the administration of the Yemeni​ fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, has dismissed a recent call for peace talks among all sides involved in the conflict in the impoverished country.

Riyadh Yaseen told a news conference in London on Sunday that the request made by former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was “unacceptable” after all the destruction he has caused in the Arab state.

“There can be no place for Saleh in any future political talks,” he said.

Yaseen and Hadi have both sought refuge in Saudi Arabia and have backed the Riyadh’s ongoing airstrikes against Yemen.

On Friday, Saleh urged all warring parties, including the Ansarullah fighters of the Houthi movement and the forces loyal to Hadi, to “return to dialogue,” adding that he was ready to reconcile with all Yemeni political factions.

The 73-year-old former Yemeni leader, who stepped down in February 2012, further called on the army and security forces to come under the control of local authorities in each province.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia pushes ahead with its deadly air raids against neighboring Yemen.

In latest developments, Saudi jets attacked the southwestern Yemeni city of Taizz, targeting the presidential palace, a special forces base, a school, and a security center.

Earlier, two civilians were killed in the northwestern province of Sa’ada.

Saudi warplanes also bombed other parts of Yemen, including the southern port city of Aden as well as the presidential complex in the capital Sana’a.

Saudi Arabia launched the air campaign a on March 26 - without a UN mandate - in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.

According to latest figures released by the World Health Organization, the death toll from the violence in Yemen since late March has exceeded 1,000.

Former U.N. envoy says Yemen political deal was close before Saudi airstrikes began

Campaign derailed agreement that could have averted conflict

Wall Street Journal
April 26, 2015 7:45 p.m. ET

UNITED NATIONS—Yemen’s warring political factions were on the verge of a power-sharing deal when Saudi-led airstrikes began a month ago, derailing the negotiations, the United Nations envoy who mediated the talks said.

Jamal Benomar, who spearheaded the negotiations until he resigned last week, told The Wall Street Journal the Saudi bombing campaign against Iran-linked Houthi rebels has hardened positions on a key point—the composition of an executive body to lead Yemen’s stalled transition. This will complicate new attempts to reach a solution, he said.

“When this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis,” said Mr. Benomar, a Moroccan diplomat.

Mr. Benomar is scheduled to address the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors on Monday and report on the suspended political talks.

Most Yemeni political factions agree talks were progressing in the run-up to the Saudi air campaign, but their views vary on Mr. Benomar’s assertion that a deal was close.

This round of U.N.-brokered talks—which began in January and included 12 political and tribal factions—represented a crucial part of a mission to install a unified government in Yemen, the poorest Arab country and home to al Qaeda’s most dangerous offshoot.

The Houthi rebels, who have overrun significant parts of the country in the past eight months, had agreed to remove their militias from the cities they were occupying under the deal that had been taking shape. The U.N. had worked out details of a new government force to replace them, Mr. Benomar said.

In exchange, Western-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has since fled the country, would have been part of an executive body that would run the country temporarily, Mr. Benomar said.

The Houthis had agreed to that reduced role for Mr. Hadi until the Saudi military intervention began on March 26. At that point, the Houthis hardened their position on this key point and opposed any role for Mr. Hadi in government, Mr. Benomar said.

Saudi-backed factions have also hardened their positions, saying the Houthis shouldn’t be granted political power.

Several Yemeni political factions, which were also interested in power-sharing, said the military tensions in the capital led to feelings of unease during negotiations. In their takeover of the capital, the Houthis kidnapped members of rival political parties.

“We did not like the Houthi plan on the table, but we were willing to sign it since it reflected reality. It was either that or no deal,” said Mohammed Abulahoum, president of Yemen’s Justice and Building Party.

The air campaign transformed Yemen into a battlefield for a broader contest over regional power between Shiite Iran and Sunni countries led by Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis want to restore Mr. Hadi to the presidency and also support a separate armed political faction named Islah, which is anti-Houthi. Iran supports the Houthis, who abide by a Shiite offshoot of Islam. Many Yemenis accuse both countries of meddling in their affairs.

The Houthis took over the capital San’a and the government and then advanced on the south.As they approached the port city of Aden, where Mr. Hadi had taken refuge, he fled the country and ended up in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s troubles mark an abrupt turnabout from what the international community had once hailed as a success story.

The 2011 Arab Spring protests triggered political change in Yemen, a largely peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy. Groups that felt oppressed or excluded for decades under the former regime, such as the Houthis, were supposed to take part in the new government.

But that transition stalled in 2014. In the two months leading up to the Saudi air campaign, the Houthis and other parties insisted on a reduced role for Mr. Hadi, blaming him for the slow pace of reform.

Mr. Hadi, his Saudi allies and other political factions opposed the terms for the presidency being hammered out by Mr. Benomar.

“A very detailed agreement was being worked out, but there was one important issue on which there was no agreement, and that was what to do with the presidency,” Mr. Benomar said. “We were under no illusion that implementation of this would be easy.”

Two other Arab states—Qatar and Morocco—were willing to host new rounds of Yemen peace talks. But after both countries joined the Saudi-led military coalition, the Houthis rejected those venues, according to Mr. Benomar.

President Hadi has suggested that talks resume in the Saudi capital of Riyadh under Saudi auspices. But that was a non-starter for the Houthis.

A senior diplomat familiar with the negotiations said the Saudis also intervened to prevent a power-sharing deal that would include the Houthis and that would give 30 % of the cabinet and parliament to women.

Saudi Arabia declared last week that it was shifting to a new phase in the Yemen campaign more focused on seeking a political solution. But it left open the option of continued military action, and has kept up airstrikes at a robust pace since the declaration.

Mr. Benomar said he would tell the Security Council on Monday that only U.N.-led talks in a neutral location can have any chance of success.

On Saturday, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania was named as the new U.N. envoy for Yemen.

On Sunday, Yemeni officials reported several apparent strikes by the Saudi coalition against Houthi targets amid deadly clashes between Houthi militants and forces aligned with Mr. Hadi.

Strikes hit the capital San’a as well as targets in energy-rich Marib province, officials said. Several southern provinces also saw strikes, including one that hit a convoy of Houthi fighters heading to the southern port city of Aden.

Fighting Intensifies in Yemen in Push to Drive Back Houthi Militia

ADEN and CAIRO — Reuters
Sunday, Apr. 26 2015, 7:26 PM EDT

Air raids, naval shelling and ground fighting shook Yemen on Sunday in some of the most widespread combat since a Saudi-led alliance intervened last month against Iranian-allied Houthi militia who have seized large tracts of the country.

There were at least five air strikes on military positions and an area near the presidential palace compound in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa at dawn on Sunday, while warships pounded an area near the port of the southern city of Aden, residents said.

“The explosions were so big they shook the house, waking us and our kids up. Life has really become unbearable in this city,” a Sanaa resident who gave his name as Jamal said.

The strikes on Sanaa were the first since the Saudi-led coalition said last week it was scaling back a campaign against the Houthis. But the air raids soon resumed as the Houthis’ nationwide gains had not been notably rolled back, and there has been no visible progress toward peace talks.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and arch Sunni Muslim regional adversary of Shia Muslim Iran, feels menaced by the Shia Houthi advance across Yemen since last September, when the rebels captured the capital.

The Houthis later forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.

The Saudi-led intervention aims to restore Mr. Hadi and prevent Yemen disintegrating as a state, with al-Qaeda militants thriving in the chaos and one of the world’s busiest oil shipping lanes off the Yemeni coast at risk.

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan visited King Fahd airbase in Saudi Arabia’s Taif on Sunday and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Saudi-led coalition.

“Our only choice is victory in the test of Yemen,” the official WAM news agency quoted him as saying.

Fighters loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have been battling alongside the Houthi rebels.

In London, Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen rejected a call for peace talks issued by Mr. Saleh on Friday and said the Saudi-led military operation had not ended.

“These calls are unacceptable after all of the destruction Ali Abdullah Saleh has caused. There can be no place for Saleh in any future political talks,” Mr. Yaseen told a news conference.

“There will be no deal with the Houthis whatsoever until they withdraw from areas under their control,” he said.

Eyewitnesses in Aden said foreign warships shelled Houthi emplacements around the city’s main commercial port and dockyard, the first time they had been targeted.

Aden residents reported heavy clashes between local armed militia from Yemen’s Sunni south and Houthis backed by army units loyal to Mr. Saleh.

Sources in the militia said they retaliated for the first time with tank and Katyusha rocket fire. Air strikes backed up local militia in clashes near Aden’s international airport.

In the southern province of Dalea, militia said they had fought for hours to retake several rural districts from the Houthis with the help of air strikes. The fighting left around 25 Houthis and six local militiamen dead.

A grouping of armed tribesmen and Sunni Islamist fighters in the strategically important central Yemeni city of Taiz took back several districts from the Houthis in heavy fighting, according to residents there.

Medics reported that four civilians were killed when a rocket landed in a street and shelling damaged a main hospital.

The battlefield setbacks for the Houthis occurred in an area they held largely unopposed for more than a month, and suggest that the air campaign has emboldened armed opposition groups.

Other air strikes hit Houthi bastions in Saada province along Yemen’s northern border with Saudi Arabia, and Saudi ground forces also shelled the city of Haradh in neighboring Hajja province, residents said.

Iran’s navy chief said on Sunday that it would keep warships in the Gulf of Aden for at least several months, a stance that could harden U.S. concerns about Tehran trying to supply advanced weapons to the Houthis.

Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, quoted by the state news agency IRNA, said the ships had deployed to protect shipping routes against piracy. The Islamic Republic denies giving military support to the Houthis.

The United States sent an aircraft carrier and a missile cruiser to support seven U.S. warships already near the Gulf of Aden this week, and warned Iran not to send weapons to Yemen that could be used to threaten shipping traffic.

Houthis suffer losses in Taiz

Monday 27 April 2015

Forces loyal to the imperialist recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the strategically important central city of Taiz took back several districts from the Iran-allied Houthi militia amid heavy fighting on Sunday, residents said.

At least 90 were killed in heavy clashes over three Yemeni cities on Sunday between anti-Houthi fighters and forces loyal to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The fighting took place in the Western Yemeni cities Maareb, Taiz and Aden, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The reverses deal a blow to the Houthis in an area they have controlled largely unopposed for more than a month. They may be a sign that more than a month of Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi forces have emboldened armed opposition groups.

Saudi Border Guards on Saturday evening killed at least 15 Houthis near the Kingdom’s frontier in two vehicles, a Saudi official told Al Arabiya News Channel.

In the incident, which took place close to Jazan, Border Guards fired at the Houthi squad from an 800-meter distance using an anti-tank weapon, the official told an Al Arabiya correspondent.

The Saudi Border Guards are also currently on alert in Najran, another southwestern border city.

Official sources said the Border Guards in the Harth sector used RPGs and machine guns to destroy the truck which was carrying ammunition for the Houthis.

The truck was loaded with weapons from the headquarters of the 105 Brigade that is now under Houthi control.

Informed sources said the Saudi forces continue bombing the areas where the Yemeni rebels were firing from in order to block their infiltration attempt.

In another development, Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassine rejected a call for peace talks issued by Saleh and said the Saudi-led military campaign had not ended.

“These calls are unacceptable after all the destruction Ali Abdullah Saleh has caused. There can be no place for Saleh in any future political talks,” Yassine told a London news conference.

“Operation Decisive Storm has not ended,” said Yassine. “There will be no deal with the Houthis whatsoever until they withdraw from areas under their control,” such as Sanaa.

He said there would be no need for the coalition to deploy ground troops in Yemen because 70 percent of Yemen was not under Houthi or Saleh’s control.

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