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Yemeni Houthis call for government resignation as deadline approaches - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Army and police officers loyal to the Shi'ite Houthi group march during a demonstration in Yemen's capital Sana'a, on June 4, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Army and police officers loyal to the Shi’ite Houthi group march during a demonstration in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, on June 4, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi called on Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi to join a national unity government on Wednesday, as thousands of Houthis gathered on the outskirts of the capital Sana’a calling for the government to resign.

The Houthi leader launched a wave of protests last Sunday, calling for the government to reverse a recent decision to slash fuel subsidies or resign. He gave the government until Friday to meet the demands and threatened to take “serious” steps, leading to fears of violence erupting in Sana’a.

Informed sources in Yemen told Asharq Al-Awsat that President Hadi had held meetings with senior Yemeni political and military figures to discuss the crisis. Hadi also sent a delegation to the ruler of Yemen’s neighbor to the east, the Sultan of Oman Qaboos Bin Sa’id, to ask him to mediate with the Houthis.

The sources added that Hadi sent another delegation to the Houthi leader to present what he called the “last chance” initiative, which included the establishment of a new national unity government, with the participation of the Houthis. As well as offering the movement’s leaders a role in government, Hadi’s initiative stipulates that Houthi rebels leave Sana’a.

Dr. Faris Al-Saqqaf, a former adviser of the Yemeni president, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the government was taking the Houthis seriously.

He said: “The Higher Security Committee issued a statement which said there were indications that Houthi protesters were not peaceful . . . There are no guarantees that these Houthi protests will not change, and therefore, we call for dialogue. The president said he is extending his hand to all parties in order to implement the decisions of the National Dialogue Conference.”

Yemeni leaders concluded a 10-month National Dialogue Conference in Sana’a in January, in order to agree on a political transition process for Yemen in the wake of the mass protests that toppled former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in February 2012.

Saqqaf warned that the outcome of the conference could be jeopardized if violence breaks out between the Houthi protestors and the government.

“If clashes erupt, the country will be in trouble and the political settlement will fail,” he said.

Daifallah Al-Shami, a spokesman for the political bureau of the Ansar Allah, the Houthi movement’s military wing, said the Houthis would not compromise on in their calls for the “toppling of the government and reversing the hike in fuel prices.”

Shami said: “We gave the government until Friday to meet the demands of the people or they will take other measures, and they will decide what those measures are.”

He added that the protests were peaceful but warned that the Houthis would respond in kind to any army attack.

He also said that the Houthis demanded the full implementation of the decisions of the National Dialogue Conference, accusing the government of doing so only when it suited them while at the same time “accusing Houthis of hindering the political settlement process.”

Other sources in Yemen told Asharq Al-Awsat that armed fighters loyal to the Houthis had entered Sana’a in large numbers on Wednesday from the movement’s stronghold in the governorate of Amran and neighboring areas, and accused the movement of planning to take control of the capital.

Earlier this week, in response to the Houthis’ protests, diplomats from the 10 sponsoring states of the Gulf Initiative—the deal which brokered Saleh’s departure from power and the formation of the National Dialogue Conference—issued a statement calling Abdul Malik Al-Houthi’s demands “antagonistic, militaristic and disrespectful of this transition process, as well as the authority of the legally established Yemeni government.”