Last updated: 2 September, 2014

Yemen president to replace government and cut fuel hike

Yemen’s president is to name a new prime minister and cut a disputed fuel price hike as he bids to head off escalating tension with Shiite rebels, an official said Tuesday.

Faced with increased pressure from the Huthi rebels and a deepening political crisis, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi “has agreed to go ahead with the initiative and form a new national unity government,” his media adviser Fares Saqqaf told AFP.

The initiative comes after Zaidi Shiite rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi on Sunday urged supporters to press on with a campaign in Sanaa to oust the government.

Zaidi fighters have been camped around the capital for the past two weeks and held protests almost throughout August to push for the government’s resignation, accusing it of corruption.

The rebels’ spokesman, Mohammed Abdulsalam, dismissed the initiative as an attempt to “skirt around the demands of the Yemeni people,” writing on his Facebook page that the rebels “do not agree to it”.

The rebel leader has yet to officially respond, though a committee organising rebel sit-ins in the capital called for protests Wednesday against the initiative.

– New PM within week –

Hadi will “assign within a week” a new prime minister to form a “national unity government”, according to the text of the proposal published on the official Saba news agency.

The president himself will name the defence, interior, foreign and finance ministers in the cabinet that will also include Huthis and members of the separatist Southern Movement.

And the controversial fuel price hike implemented in July would also be “reviewed” downwards by about 30 percent, while the anticipated government should work to increase minimum wages, according to the initiative.

Saba said the proposal was approved at a meeting of pro-government political parties chaired by Hadi.

“We hope the Huthis will take part in this process, but, in any case, the president will go ahead in implementing these points that are widely backed by Yemenis,” said Saqqaf.

Analysts say the rebels are trying to establish themselves as the dominant political force in the northern highlands, where the Zaidi Shiites are the majority community.

The initiative demands the dismantling of Huthis’ encampments within and around the capital, describing those as a “cause for tension”.

It also demands bringing the northern province of Amran, where rebels have expanded in the past few months, under full government control, as well as ending confrontations in nearby Jawf province.

The UN Security Council on Friday demanded the dismantling of the Huthis’ camps, and the rebels to pull back from areas they have occupied in recent months.

The council threatened sanctions against groups blocking the political transition of the impoverished country.

Huthi on Sunday slammed the council, accusing it of “supporting corruption and backing policies that lead to further poverty”.

The initiative also stressed the need “to commit” to implementing decisions reached through national talks, which concluded in February with a call to turn Yemen into a federation of six regions.

The plan has been rejected by both Shiite rebels and southern separatists.

Yemen has been locked in a protracted transition since long-time strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February 2012 after a deadly 11-month uprising.