Anti-government protesters demand an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule of Yemen [Reuters]

A group of Yemeni politicians have abandoned a newly formed opposition council, exposing divisions in the nation's anti-government movement.

The 143-member National Council was formed on Wednesday by two opposition groups in a bid to consolidate their movement and topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime. But on Saturday, two dozen of its members announced they were quitting in a dispute over representation.

The officials claimed to have quit because of the council's unequal representation between members from the south and the north of the country.

"We have been marginalised and our position and point of view have not been considered," read a statement released by 23 opposition leaders representing the oil-exporting south of Yemen.

North and South Yemen united under Saleh in 1990, but southerners have often accused the north of unfair treatment.

"Any national council assumes the responsibility of leading the peaceful revolution of the people to overthrow the remains of the system, and should be equally divided between the South and the North, and would strengthen mutual trust and mobilise all energies and capabilities to accelerate the revolution," the statement continued.

After the group's departure, the National Council elected Mohammed Basindwa, a key opposition leader and former foreign minister from the southern port city of Aden, as its president.

Popular protests against Saleh erupted in January amid uprisings that ousted the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt.

Saleh, in power since 1978, said on Tuesday that he would soon return home from Saudi Arabia where he is recovering from a June assassination attempt in which he was wounded.

Source: Agencies