Yemen asks rebels to implement truce
Sanaa, February 7, 2010
Yemen has given Shi'ite rebels a timetable for implementing the government's ceasefire terms, a Yemeni presidential adviser said, in an attempt to end one of three conflicts besetting the country.
The schedule was addressed to Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, leader of the rebellion in the north of Yemen which also faces a secessionist movement in the south and a resurgent al Qaeda.
"The security committee has drawn up a timetable ... and it has been handed over to al-Houthi through mediators," presidential adviser Abdul-Karim al-Iryani told reporters.
"If he signs it, the war will stop," he said, adding that committees including rebel representatives would be set up to oversee the implementation of the six truce terms.
The turmoil in Yemen has raised fears in the West and neighbouring Saudi Arabia that the country may become a failed state, allowing al Qaeda to use it as a base for attacks on the top oil exporter and beyond. The Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a US jet on Christmas Day had links to Yemen.
The Shi'ite rebels have said they would accept Sanaa's ceasefire conditions that include removing checkpoints, withdrawing forces and clarifying the fate of kidnapped foreigners.
The government says the rebels must also return captured military and civilian equipment, stay out of local politics and end border hostilities with Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh, which last month declared a full victory over the insurgents, joined the conflict in November after rebels seized some Saudi territory. The rebels had accused Riyadh of letting Yemen use its territory for attacks on their positions.
The rebels said on their website that Saudi fighter planes carried out six strikes on northern districts on Saturday, down from 26 attacks on Friday, and fired more than 440 rockets and rounds of heavy artillery over the two days.
Saada province governor replaced
President Ali Abdullah Saleh replaced the governor of Saada province, scene of much of the fighting with the Shi'ite rebels, state media reported on Saturday without giving a reason.
The outgoing governor had publicly criticised the arrest in late January of his brother, Faris Mana, identified as a top Yemeni weapons dealer who had been placed on a "black list" of arms traders issued by the government in October.
Local councils have named governors in the past two years but the president still has the power to replace them. The government has since also arrested another suspected arms dealer and his son, accused of supplying arms to the rebels.
Saudi Arabia and Yemen have accused the Shi'ite rebels of working with al Qaeda, but a figure in the Sunni Muslim militant group, Abu Yahya al-Libi, denied they were cooperating.
Libi, who is thought to live in Afghanistan or Pakistan, issued a statement on Islamic websites entitled "We are not Houthis". In this he rejected the charges as a "fabrication aimed at delegitimising jihad (holy war) or at least sowing confusion in minds".
Sentenced in absentia
A Yemeni court sentenced a brother of the Shi'ite rebel leader in absentia to 15 years in jail. Yahya al-Houthi, a parliamentarian who has been based in Germany since leaving Yemen three years ago, was convicted of backing the rebellion.
The defence ministry's online newspaper, September 26, said 11 Houthi rebels were killed in fighting. Al Arabiya television quoted tribal leaders and rebels as saying the Shi'ite rebels killed 23 Yemeni soldiers in two attacks, including an ambush.
The conflict with the northern rebels, who complain of social, religious and economic discrimination, started in 2004, but intensified last year.
In southern Yemen at least one protester was killed and another wounded after security forces opened fire to disperse separatist-inspired demonstrations. – Reuters