Yemen’s Houthi rebels give president ultimatum

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Updated 31 October 2014

Yemen’s Houthi rebels give president ultimatum

ADEN: Yemen’s Shiite rebels, who are in control of the capital, gave the president 10 days starting Friday to form a government, hinting at a takeover attempt if their demands are not met.
The Shiite group, also known as Houthis, rallied some 30,000 tribal leaders in Sanaa, where they delivered a communique warning President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi that “all revolutionary options are open” if he failed to form a government.
“Our next meeting will be at the headquarters of the decision making,” said Deif Allah Rassam, spokesman of the so-called Popular Tribal Alliance. A second speaker at the rally, Naguib Al-Mansouri, called for the formation of a “salvation military council.”
The government formation is part of a UN deal to reach a peaceful settlement to Yemen’s political crisis.
The deal signed by the Houthis, Hadi and the rest of Yemen’s political factions, stipulated that the Houthis withdraw their forces from all cities and hand all captured barracks to the military. The communique that came out of Friday’s rally however called for the establishment of “revolutionary committees” across the country, in reference to the group’s militias that have swept through the capital and other cities. The group has previously stated that its committees will continue to fight Al-Qaeda militants and uproot corruption.
Hadi, the president, said a few days ago that the army is the only force entitled to defend the country against terrorism and the only force that should be fighting against Al-Qaeda, calling on the Houthis to disband their committees and withdraw. Many of the attendees of the Friday rally pumped their fists in celebration while chanting a trademark Houthi slogan known as the scream: “Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn Jews and Victory for Islam.” The chant resembles an iconic Iranian revolutionary slogan, and the group is suspected of having strong ties to Iran.
Over the past year, after descending from their highland home in Saada province, the Houthis fought their way to Sanaa and other cities — battling conservative Sunnis, Al-Qaeda militants and the traditional power brokers of the Islamist Islah Party.
Over the past three days, security officials said that at least 250 people were killed in clashes between Houthis and an influential tribe in the town of Radda, a known Al-Qaeda stronghold some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Sanaa. Houthi fighters entered the town last week after an army battalion station there retreated. Local security officials and tribal leaders say the battalion commander is a loyalist of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who they accuse of secretly aiding the Houthis against Hadi’s administration.
The Houthi offensive has pushed Yemen into even deeper turmoil. Apart from the rampant Al-Qaeda insurgency and the Shiite rebel blitz, the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country has also endured crushing poverty that has bred resentment — and outright rebellion — that took root in a secessionist movement in its once-independent southern region.
During the rally, some Houthi speakers reached out to southerners by proposing the formation of a joint northern-southern committee to look into the south’s demands.
The call was described as “theatrical,” by Adnan Muhsen, a top southern political leader — adding that the demands of southerners are clear and Houthis should simply support their cause.


Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

Updated 17 January 2020

Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

  • The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17
  • The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis

BEIRUT: Protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon on Friday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month.
The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has resurged this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.
No progress seemed to have been made on a final lineup, which protesters demand be made up solely of independent experts and empty of traditional political parties.
In central Beirut, dozens of protesters Friday stood between parked cars blocking a key thoroughfare linking the city’s east and west.
“We blocked the road with cars because it’s something they can’t move,” Marwan Karam said.
The protester condemned what he regarded as efforts to form yet another government representing the usual carve-up of power between the traditional parties.
“We don’t want a government of masked political figures,” the 30-year-old told AFP. “Any such government will fall. We won’t give it any chance in the street.”
Forming a new cabinet is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the various political parties and a multitude of religious confessions.
Nearby, Carlos Yammine, 32, said he did not want yet another “cake-sharing government.”
“What we have asked for from the start of the movement is a reduced, transitional, emergency government of independents,” he said, leaning against his car.


Elsewhere, demonstrators closed roads including in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli, though some were later reopened, the National News Agency said.
The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis that Lebanon has witnessed since its 1975-1990 civil war.
The protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis.
On Thursday night, protesters vandalized three more banks in the capital’s Hamra district, smashing their glass fronts and graffitiing ATMs, an AFP photographer said.
Earlier, Lebanon’s security services released most of the 100-plus protesters detained over the previous 48 hours, lawyers said.
Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned the arrests and the response of security forces to protests outside a police station on Wednesday night demanding detainees be released.
“The unacceptable level of violence against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters on January 15 calls for a swift independent and transparent investigation,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the rights watchdog.
Over the past few months, the Lebanese pound — long pegged to the US dollar at 1,507 — has fallen in value on the unofficial market to around 2,500.
The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.