Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthis have no plans to withdraw their fighters from the capital Sana’a, Houthi spokesman Mohamed Abdulsalam told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Houthis advanced into the capital Sana’a last month, taking control of government buildings and state radio and TV stations, following clashes with government forces. Although the government and the Houthi rebels subsequently signed an agreement granting the Zaydi movement a greater share of decision-making, talks have stalled over the appointment of a consensus prime minister.
Embattled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had put forward Ahmed Bin Mubarak as candidate for prime minister, but his nomination was rejected by the Houthis and withdrawn. Hadi is in consultation over the naming a new prime ministerial candidate, which is expected to take place over the coming days.
Abdulsalam said: “Special consultations over nominating a candidate to head the national unity government are ongoing and a decision could be made within the next few days,” adding that “the consultations are going well and there is agreement on some figures and the final candidate will be announced soon.”
The Houthi spokesman denied that the Shi’ite group is calling for Hadi’s resignation. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are not calling for that but we did express our dismay at his latest transgression, which was outside the scope of the peace and partnership agreement,” in reference to Bin Mubarak’s nomination, who is head of Hadi’s presidential office. The Houthis claimed that Bin Mubarak had been the candidate of “foreign embassies” with Hadi’s aide subsequently requesting to be relieved of the nomination on Thursday.
The Houthi spokesman said that there was no deadline for a Houthi withdrawal from Sana’a, with the group having set up “popular committees” to police the streets. “The popular committees will continue alongside the security apparatus, and there is complete coordination in this regard. The main objective is to protect the people [of Sana’a],” he said.
“The popular committees are there to serve the people and cooperate with state security agencies to ensure safety and security following the recent criminal events and security challenges,” Abdulsalam said in reference to a suicide bombing in Sana’a earlier this week that killed at least 47, including women and children.
The suicide bombing on Thursday had superficially targeted Houthi supporters; Al-Qaeda later claimed responsibility for the attack with many observers fearing rising sectarian unrest following the Houthi advance into Sana’a.
The UN Security Council strongly condemned the attack, reiterating support for President Hadi and calling for the “political transition” in Yemen to move forward despite the political and security challenges. The Security Council called on all parties to work “constructively” to implement the terms of the peace and partnership agreement.
“Perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism must be brought to justice,” the UN Security Council statement said.