Middle East
Yemen's Houthi back dialogue
Rebels express support for government-backed accord between political rivals.
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2010 16:32 GMT
Political factions hope to see ministers from all parties represented in the Yemeni parliament [AFP]

Yemen's Houthi rebels have voiced their support for a recent agreement signed between the country's ruling party and the opposition, aimed at creating a national dialogue between Yemen's political rivals.

The Shia rebel group said on Monday that the agreement sealed between the ruling General People's Congress and a coalition of opposition parties will pave the way for a "comprehensive dialogue which excludes no one".

"We express our satisfaction and support for the agreement between the Common Forum and the (ruling) General People's Congress," the AFP news agency reported, citing a statement signed by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the rebels.

The agreement was signed on Saturday with members of the opposition Common Forum, which groups al-Islah (Reform) party, the main Islamist opposition and the Yemeni Socialist Party, as well as other smaller factions.

It is aimed at finding ways of implementing a February 2009 deal for national dialogue and postponing a parliamentary election until April 2011 to allow time to amend Yemen's constitution.

Power share calls

Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president, said on Saturday that the new agreement was "a positive step".

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"God willing, it will create a political détente and begin a new phase, and stop media campaigns," he said.

"We are in the same ship, we should be sailing out together, and there should be a command for this ship from all political forces."

He also renewed a call for Yemen's political parties to form a national unity government.

In May, Saleh invited Yemeni political groups to join a "responsible national dialogue, within the framework of the constitutional institutions".

"According to this dialogue, it is possible to form a government of all the influential political parties represented in parliament," he said then.

Tensions remain

But the Houthis also called on Saleh's government to carry out a pledge to release detainees.

The Yemeni government agreed on Saturday to release 400 detainees, mostly northern rebels.

Tensions remain high in northern Yemen, where the Houthis say the government is preparing for another round of conflict despite the implementation of a cease-fire signed in February, which ended months of fighting earlier this year.

The Houthis have fought six wars with the government since 2004. They blame the central government for economic and religious discrimination.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 300,000 people have fled their homes during the six years of fighting. Few of them have returned since the cease-fire.

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