Yemen Rebels Reach Deal With Hadi, to Pull Back From Palace – Businessweek

Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shiite rebels in Yemen reached an accord
with President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi and will pull back from his
palace after seizing it two days ago, the country’s official
news agency said.

Hadi has agreed to demands including redrafting the
constitution to specify that Yemen is a federal state, the Saba
news agency said. The rebels, known as Houthis, have pledged to
withdraw from the presidential palace, Hadi’s residence and
checkpoints set up on Jan. 19 when the latest fighting flared
up, Saba said.

The seizure of the palace on Tuesday was the latest advance
by the Houthis, who have controlled much of Sana’a since their
fighters entered the capital in September. The move threatened
to plunge Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor deeper into sectarian
conflict, and was denounced by the Saudis and their Gulf allies,
who have supported Hadi, as a coup.

Yemen’s government has struggled to exert authority over
much of the country amid challenges by ethnic separatists,
political protesters and Islamist militants. The resulting power
vacuum caused alarm in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil
exporter, and enabled al-Qaeda to expand its operations. The
group’s Yemen branch claimed this month’s killings at the
Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

Supporters of Hadi protested outside his residency,
demanding to know where the president was and holding signs
saying “militias are gangs that don’t build a state” and ‘no
to coup.’’

Marib Clashes

Clashes between tribesmen and Houthis erupted in the oil-province of Marib east of the capital, Mohammed Guzailan, a
tribal leader, said by telephone. At least two tribal fighters
were killed and six wounded in the fighting, he said.

Last week, tribes threatened to cut oil supplies from Marib
if Hadi was harmed by Shiite fighters, Al Jazeera television
reported. Local tribes have repeatedly sabotaged the Marib oil
pipeline network, which carries crude 420 kilometers (260 miles)
from the region to Ras Eisa terminal on the Red Sea for export.

The bulk of Yemen’s natural gas reserves are concentrated
in the Marib-Jawf fields, according the country’s Petroleum
Exploration and Production Authority. There is a 10,000 barrel a
day oil refinery in Marib, it said.

Yemen ranks eighth in the Middle East for oil output and
produced 161,000 barrels a day in 2013, according to data from
BP Plc.

Guards Surrender

Palace guards surrendered on Tuesday after two days of
clashes. Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the rebel leader, said in a
televised address that Hadi and other politicians had failed to
advance a national dialogue, root out corruption or combat al-Qaeda. The militant group and its tribal allies have stepped up
attacks against the Houthis since they entered Sana’a.

Showing the potential for the standoff to escalate into a
wider conflict, hundreds of gunmen entered Aden in southern
Yemen to defend it against any Houthi advance, while protests
against the Houthis erupted in Taiz, another southern city.

Hadi took office in 2012 with backing from the Saudis,
their Gulf allies and the U.S., as part of an agreement that
aimed to end a year of violent protests against his predecessor,
Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Early Elections

Saleh, who has been accused of aiding the Houthi advance,
called yesterday for early presidential and parliament
elections, according to the website of his General People’s
Congress party. The former leader also urged Hadi to implement
the Houthi demands.

The Houthis, named after the group’s founder, Hussein al-Houthi, say they face discrimination from Yemen’s authorities.
The movement is based in the north, and its leaders are seeking
an administrative division of the country into northern and
southern regions that would help cement their gains since 2011,
according to an e-mailed report by the Soufan Group, which
monitors political risk. Yemen was reunified in 1990 after
decades of division between north and south.

As well as the geographic split, there’s also a sectarian
dimension to the Yemen conflict that reflects broader divisions
in the region. The Houthis have accused Saudi Arabia and other
Sunni Gulf states of meddling in Yemen’s affairs, while the
Saudis and their allies say Shiite-ruled Iran has stirred up
unrest there.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Mohammed Hatem in Dubai at
mhatem1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Alaa Shahine at
asalha@bloomberg.net
Glen Carey

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