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Yemen: Houthis hold own conference, look to Aden - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Houthi fighters wearing army uniforms stand atop an armored vehicle, outside the house of Yemen's former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Sana'a, Yemen, on January 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Houthi fighters wearing army uniforms stand atop an armored vehicle, outside the house of Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Sana’a, Yemen, on January 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s Houthi movement has refused to participate in UN-brokered meetings with government and political parties over the future of the country, instead holding its own conference to discuss its next move.

According to Yemeni government and political sources, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, Houthi movement representatives have not participated in the UN-sponsored summit to end the ongoing political and security crisis in Yemen.

The Houthi summit is taking place in Sana’a behind closed doors. Political observers were unsure as to who is attending or what is being discussed, although local sources reported that supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh could also attend.

Yemeni political parties are meeting with UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar to discuss the future of the country following the resignation of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Yemeni government earlier this month.

A source close to the Yemeni presidency, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said: “From my understanding, if the UN-brokered summit emerges with something that goes against the decisions made at the Houthi summit, then they [Houthis] will impose their decisions and say that this is the will of the people.”

With Yemen’s main political parties still in disarray, the Shi’ite Houthi movement has moved quickly to cement its grip on the country following what some political observers have dubbed a coup against Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Military officials, also speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the Shi’ite militia, which is now in control of large parts of Yemen’s military, is seeking to gain control of the southern province of Aden.

The Houthis have traditionally set up “popular committees” as a prelude to strengthening their grip on Yemen’s provinces, with this idea now being floated in Aden.

Yemen’s restive south, where the Shi’ite Houthis have never had a strong presence, is itself seeking to secede from the north and establish its own state.

While in the capital Sana’a on Friday, Houthis violently dispersed demonstrations denouncing the rebel group’s power grab, local and international media reported.

Thousands of demonstrators were attacked and detained by the Shi’ite militia after mass popular protests were called to denounce the group’s “coup.”