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Yemen: Houthis push for key ministerial portfolios - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Gunmen loyal to the Shi'ite Houthi movement man a checkpoint on the outskirts of Sana’'a, Yemen, on October 18, 2014. (EPA/Yahya Arhab)

Gunmen loyal to the Shi'ite Houthi movement man a checkpoint on the outskirts of Sana’'a, Yemen, on October 18, 2014. (EPA/Yahya Arhab)

Sana’a and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Houthi movement is pushing to secure the defense, interior and finance portfolios in Yemen’s new cabinet, despite stern opposition from President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, sources in the Yemeni government told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday.

The sources added that Hadi met on Sunday with newly appointed Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, Yemen’s former UN representative, who returned from New York on Sunday to assume his post.

The two held “lengthy discussions” regarding the possible makeup of the new cabinet before they meet with other political factions in the country to receive their nominees for the various posts. However, several political parties and forces in the country are refusing to take part in the process in protest over the inclusion of the Houthis and their “forcing a personal political agenda” onto the country, the sources said.

Despite this, Hadi remains convinced of the “importance of meeting with the representatives of all political forces” to form a new government, and was insistent that all the country’s political forces come together at this time to “confront the various [political], economic and security challenges” the country is facing.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports say Houthi rebels stormed the Sana’a governorate headquarters on Sunday, forcing the current governor, Abdul Ghani Hafzallah Jamil, out of the building, and installing a new governor, Essam Duaib, who was previously a bodyguard to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In the Ibb governorate in southern Yemen, whose capital city—also known as Ibb—the Houthis seized last Wednesday, a truce was declared on Sunday between the Houthis and local authorities following clashes between the Shi’ite group and local Sunni tribal fighters which have left dozens dead and injured.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat the truce agreement stipulates the Houthis vacate the city within 24 hours. However, eyewitnesses said the group had continued raiding homes of their rivals throughout the governorate, even destroying some of them using explosives. The eyewitnesses said they believed some of these homes belonged to members of the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Speaking via telephone, the official spokesperson of the Coalition of Yemeni Tribes, Antar Al-Thayfani, told Asharq Al-Awsat the Houthis had begun assassinating leaders from rival political factions throughout the country, not just in Ibb.

He claimed that he was “at the top of the list” the group had drawn up of figures it wished to eliminate, having already destroyed his homes in Amran province using explosives.

The group now had more than 170 tanks in its possession, he said, all seized from military facilities, and alleged that the Houthis had been receiving aid from former members of ex-president Saleh’s presidential guard.

Thayfani accused former members of the presidential guard of taking part in Houthi-led protests in disguise, as well as helping the group take over a number of provinces and government and military buildings and facilities over the past weeks.

Thayfani said the Coalition—a loose collection of Sunni tribes formed under the leadership of the sheikh of the prominent Al-Ahmar tribe, Sadeq Al-Ahmar, to fight the regime of former president Saleh—had “known from the beginning” of protests the Houthis staged last month that the group planned to take over the country, and that their “revolution was illegitimate.”

Tawfiq Al-Harazi and Fahd Al-Zayabi contributed additional reporting from Sana’a and Riyadh.