Last updated: 6 February, 2013

Yemen’s president sets March 18 for national dialogue

Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi on Wednesday set March 18 as the date for a much-anticipated national dialogue to push forward the process of political transition, state media said.

Hadi described the conference, which aims to set in motion a process to draft a new constitution and an electoral law for elections in 2014, as a “strategic and historic opportunity… to achieve a civic and modern state,” Saba state news agency said.

The interim president urged Yemeni political forces to “work strongly to make the conference a success, and to grab the historic opportunity to achieve justice, freedom and equality,” Saba added.

It said the decision was announced following a meeting between the president and the committee tasked with preparing for the talks which were originally planned for mid-November.

The conference was delayed after factions in the Southern Movement, which has campaigned for autonomy or secession for the formerly independent south, refused to join the talks.

Hadi was elected last February as part of a Gulf-brokered exit deal that eased former president Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office after 33 years in power, and ended a year of protests against his regime.

The Common Forum parties, which represented the opposition under Saleh and control half of the current government, announced on Tuesday that they will take part in the dialogue.

The Shiite Huthi rebels, who fought the government of Saleh for many years in the north, also said they will participate in the forum.

The position of some southern groups remains vague, but former vice president Ali Salem al-Beidh, who was the president of South Yemen, and who has demanded a full secession from the north, insists on shunning the talks.

The United Nations which backed the Gulf initiative to end Yemen’s crisis has strongly backed president Hadi in his endeavour to implement the political transition and to restructure security forces as stipulated by the peace plan.

A top UN Security Council team, including representatives from the council’s 15 members, visited Sanaa late January to demonstrate the UN’s support to Yemen’s political transition.

Yemen was rocked in 2011 by an uprising that left the already impoverished country’s economy in tatters and weakened the government’s control over several areas, especially across the south and east.