Sana’a, AP—Yemen’s Shi’ite rebels who overran the capital, Sana’a, are demanding their militia becomes part of the country’s army and police force as a precondition for talks on releasing the nation’s president and Cabinet members from house arrest, a senior politician said Monday.
The demand is the latest in the power grab by the Houthi rebels who last month raided the presidential palace, months after taking over key state institutions and military facilities after descending from their northern stronghold into Sana’a in September.
The demand, along with other conditions put forth by the rebels, could thwart UN efforts to find a negotiated solution to the crisis in Yemen.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, which is also home to a formidable Al-Qaeda affiliate, has been leaderless since President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi submitted his resignation from the presidency last month after the Houthis pressured him for a greater share of power and besieged his home.
On Monday, Abdullah Noaman told The Associated Press that his Nasserite Party pulled out of UN-brokered talks the day before, after the Houthis demanded that their 20,000-strong militia join the country’s military and security forces as a precondition to any kind of deal.
He accused Houthis of using the talks as “political cover to complete their coup.”
On Sunday, the Houthis gave Yemen’s political factions a three-day ultimatum to reach an agreement, otherwise they said they’ll take over themselves.
The Houthis, announced the decision on their Al-Masirah television station, as the final statement from a political summit held in a sports stadium since Friday to organize “a peaceful transfer of power.”
The Houthis control all major government buildings in Sana’a, as well as a number of key military facilities including the headquarters of the paramilitary special forces and air force.
A movement representing southerners has already withdrawn from a UN sponsored dialogue with the Houthis, calling them “absurd” and demanding that the rebels release Hadi and allow the country’s parliament to convene normally.
Later on Sunday, armed Houthis, who have controlled Sana’a since September, broke up a protest against them at the city’s main university, detaining several people. They hold around a dozen activists in the capital, after releasing some two dozen others in recent days.
In the southern city of Ibb, witnesses said two men on a motorcycle shot dead a Houthi leader, Abdullah Al-Ayani. They declined to give their names for fear of retribution.
The governor of the southern port city of Aden said in a statement that he rejected any calls for separatism or sectarianism