The UN envoy to Yemen has returned to Sanaa and resumed contact with major political players to find a way out of a deepening crisis caused by a Shia Houthi takeover.

Envoy Jamal Benomar left suddenly for Saudi Arabia last week, where he is believed to have held consultations with visiting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He returned to Sanaa late on Saturday and has since held meetings with all the main political factions, including leaders of the ruling Revolutionary Committee set up by the Houthis, participants in the talks said on Sunday.

The Houthis remain defiant after staging a coup on Friday, when they announced themselves as the country's new leaders.

Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi defended the takeover, telling his followers that it was a revolution.

Al-Houthi said President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's decision to step down had created a power vacuum that needed to be filled.

"This move came to address the vacuum through which other forces meant to undermine the efforts of our people," he said.

"Some political forces and collaborators within and outside Yemen failed to understand that the Yemeni people are adamant they will achieve their legitimate, lawful, just demands to establish a dignified way of life."

The Houthis are under mounting pressure following their decision on Friday to dissolve parliament, which cemented their takeover less than five months after they seized the capital, Sanaa.

Late on Saturday, the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Houthis' main ally, added its voice to the growing opposition to the takeover and called for a return to the dialogue moderated by Benomar.

Coup condemned

A powerful alliance of six Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has denounced the Houthis' coup. 

The Arab world's poorest country is reeling from the crisis, with many areas experiencing lengthy power and water cuts. Authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to pay government salaries on time.

The Houthis' capture of the capital in September and its formal takeover over the weekend puts the country of at least 25 million on a slippery path to civil war or sectarian strife.

The Shia Houthis have clashed with al-Qaeda fighters, who are Sunni and backed by powerful tribes in northern Yemen.

The Houthi takeover has also stoked secessionist sentiments in the south, raising fears of a repeat of the 1994 civil war, when the formerly independent south attempted to break away from its union with the north, forged four years earlier.

Source: Agencies