News from Yemen: Peace agreement eludes Yemen
- Peace agreement eludes Yemen
Yemen's government has presented northern Houthi fighters with a detailed ceasefire agreement in a bid to end a six-year conflict.
Abdul-Karim al-Iryani, an adviser to Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said the peace deal issued on Saturday gives a "timetable" for a truce between the Houthis and the Yemeni government.
But heavy clashes between government forces and Houthi fighters continue to rock northern parts of Yemen.
Houthi fighters said they killed 23 Yemeni soldiers in two attacks on Saturday while the military said 11 Houthi fighters were killed in air attacks the same day.
Al-Iryani said the war will end if the group accepts to sign the truce.
"All this is happening while officials are trying to implement a new ceasefire deal," Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sanaa, Yemen's capital, said.
"In a statement issued by the Houthis, they also accuse Saudis of attacks in many areas, firing more than 270 rockets and rounds of heavy artillery."
The Houthis say their community of Shia Muslims from the Zaydi sect suffer discrimination and neglect and that the Yemeni government has allowed Sunni conservatives influenced by the Saudi religious establishment too strong a voice in the country.
Yemen has come under international pressure of late to end the conflict quickly and free up resources to confront a separate threat from an al-Qaeda offshoot that has set up operations there over the past year.
Last week, the Houthis accepted a conditional ceasefire first issued by the Saleh government in September.
The plan called on the Houthi fighters to disarm, free hostages and clear mountain hideouts.
However, the government dismissed the offer and said it would halt military operations against the fighters only "under a certain framework."
It also added a fresh demand that the fighters vow not to attack Saudi Arabia.
'Signature on deal'
Al-Iryani, the presidential adviser, said if Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the Houthis' leader, "signs this document and accepts its mechanisms, the war will stop immediately".
Our correspondent said: "All that is required of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi is to put his signature on the deal, but now the problem lies within the details of the ceasefire."
The peace proposal calls for the formation of five committees made up of Houthi and government representatives that would implement the ceasefire, al-Iryani said.
The committee on border security would also include Saudi officials.
Neighbouring Saudi Arabia was drawn into the conflict in November after the Houthis crossed the border and killed two Saudi border guards.
At least 133 Saudi soldiers have died in the fighting.
The fighters announced a unilateral ceasefire with Saudi Arabia in late January.
However, the Saudis responded cautiously to the group's announcement and demanded fighters pull back from border positions and return five missing soldiers.
Several earlier ceasefires quickly disintegrated, mainly because the Houthis said their demands were not addressed.
In what could deal a further blow to the peace process, a security court in Sanaa on Saturday sentenced Yahya al-Houthi, the brother of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, in abstentia to 15 years in prison on charges of supporting the uprising.
Yahya al-Houthi has been living in Germany for the past three years.
Rebel Leader Convicted in Yemen
In Yemen, Yahya al-Houthi, the political leader of a northern rebellion, who now lives in Germany, was sentenced to prison in a Yemeni court on Saturday. This comes as both sides report intensified fighting, despite recent promises for peace.
For six years now, war has raged in northern Yemen. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the region, and casualties- military and civilian- continue to mount on both sides. The Houthis, a fiercely anti-Western Shi'ite militia, say they are defending themselves against political and religious oppression. The Yemeni government says it is defending the country from terrorist gangs.
On Saturday, Yahya al-Houthi, a former parliamentarian and the brother of Abdul Malek al-Houthi, the rebel army's military leader, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in organizing and leading the militia. But Yemeni Political analyst Ali Saif Hassan says the leader will not be extradited from Germany to serve his time in a Yemeni jail. He says the conviction is political move, and tool the government may use in negotiations with the Houthi army.
They might use it, they might use it first for him not to come back," said Hassan. "Or they say, okay, we can take that sentence from him if there is something in return.
And while both sides say they are trying to negotiate, rebels report air strikes bringing hundreds of Saudi rockets down on the region, and killing women and children. The Yemeni government claims that 20 soldiers were killed in a Houthi ambush on Friday.
Muslim Scholars in Yemen-Houthi Mediation
The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has formed a delegation to outline a comprehensive plan to end the raging fighting between the Yemeni government and the Houthi Shiite rebels.
"The IUMS Executive Council under Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has decided to mediate between the Yemeni government and Houthi Shiite rebels to end violence there," Sheikh Abdullah bin Beya, a member of IUMS Board of Trustees, told IslamOnline.net.
A high-level IUMS team will arrive in Yemen in the coming days to discuss ways of ending the fighting between government troops and Houthis in the northern Saada province.
Led by Qaradawi, the scholar delegation will group Mauritanian bin Beya, Qatari Ali Al-Qurdaghi, Saudi Salman Oudah, Omani Mufti Ahmed bin Hamad Al-Khalili and Iranian Shiite scholar Mohamed Ali Taskhiri.
Yemen troops are engaged in fierce fighting against Shiite rebels in the northern province of Saada.
Sana'a says the rebels, known as Houthis, have been fighting to restore the Zaidi imamate, which was overthrown in a 1962 republican coup.
The rebels deny the claim, saying they are defending their villages against what they call government aggression.
Saudi Arabia was dragged into the conflict last year after the Shiite rebels shot dead two border guards and made incursions into Saudi territories before being driven out.
Before launching the initiative, the IUMS listened to a report by President of Malaysia’s Islamic Party (PAS) Abdul Hadi Awang who visited Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran to discuss the solution to the conflict.
The Dublin-based IUMS was launched in July 2004 in the British capital London as an independent body and a reference for all Muslims worldwide.
Yemen 'must resist foreign forces'
A group of Muslim leaders have said Yemenis have a religious duty to resist foreign military intervention in the country.
"In the event of any foreign party insisting on hostilities against, an assault on, or military or security intervention in Yemen, then Islam requires all its followers to pursue jihad," a statement signed by 150 clerics on Thursday said.
Foreign governments have voiced increasing concern about the situation in Yemen since an attempted attack on a US-bound airliner, after which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed it had armed the alleged bomber.
On Wednesday, Carl Levin, the chairman of the US senate armed services committee, said that Washington should use drone attacks, air raids or covert operations against al-Qaeda fighters in the country.
"Most options ought to be on the table," short of invasion by US forces, the Democrat senator said.
The US and Britain have announced plans to fund Yemen's counterterrorism police force, but Barack Obama, the US president, has explicitly ruled out sending in troops.
Mohamed Vall, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, said that the religious leaders' decision to oppose any military intervention would carry great weight in the country.
"In a highly conservative, highly religious society like Yemen, it is the word of the clerics and not that of the politicians that really resonates among the masses. And today the clerics of Yemen have announced their verdict," he said.
The clerics said that their opinion was in line with that of most Yemenis and the Sanaa government, while also criticising the killing of foreigners in an apparent allusion to suspected al-Qaeda attacks.
The Yemeni government, which is also fighting a rebel group in the north of the country, and a secessionist movement in the south, has said it is engaged in an "open war" to clear al-Qaeda fighters from its territory.
"The war security forces launched against al-Qaeda elements is open whenever or wherever we find these elements," a government news website reported on Thursday, quoting an unnamed security source.
It said the source had also warned Yemenis against "hiding any al-Qaeda elements".
Sanaa has repeatedly denied that it will require foreign intervention to help it defeat the movement, an amalgamation of groups from Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
"Yemen is not Afghanistan, nor Pakistan, where terrorists constantly launch attacks while the authorities try to respond," Ali Anisi, Yemen's head of national security, said on Wednesday.
"Here, we anticipate the threat. Yemen is not a hideout for the terrorists and will never be."
Yemen 'cannot contain al-Qa'ida'
Donald Macintyre ventures into the new stronghold of extremism – and finds out why the battle against terror is failing
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
The governor of a key province in the front line of Yemen's struggle against al- Qa'ida has admitted that the government's control in his area is "not strong", and says that no extra troops have been deployed there despite official suggestions that the threat of al-Qa'ida is being contained with a new crackdown by Yemeni forces.
As Yemen faces mounting US and international pressure to combat the use of the country as the new base for al-Qa'ida in the Arabian peninsula, the governor of Abyan province, one of the southern provinces seen as al-Qa'ida strongholds, said "truthfully and honestly, it [government control] is not so strong". Ahmed Bin Ahmed al-Misri, who said the threat from al-Qa'ida in the mountain regions of his province had grown in the last six months, added: "There are not enough weapons, there are not enough soldiers."
The difficulties faced by Abyan's most senior official provide a rare insight into the problems in conducting the so-called "war on terror" in a relatively remote, rugged and undeveloped country where deep poverty, tribalism and religious conservatism allow radical influences to flourish.
Despite reports from Sana'a, the capital, that Yemen is currently moving reinforcements into areas like Abyan in a new crackdown on the resurgent militants, the governor said he had seen no sign of it.
There had, he said, been redeployments of troops from Abyan to the Marib governate and vice versa. But, in an office guarded by soldiers with AK-47s and crowded with lieutenants and allies including a uniformed army brigadier, he added: "There are no new troops, no new army." The governor said he lacked helicopters needed to pursue militants if there was an incident outside the capital.
Yemen calls on oil-rich Gulf neighbours for help
Yemen says it wants its oil-rich neighbours to do more to lift it out of poverty.
Yemeni Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Mujawar told the BBC that poverty was a breeding ground for extremism.
He was speaking a day after an international meeting on how best to boost support for the Yemen government.
It faces a growing threat from al-Qaeda, an armed insurgency in the north and a burgeoning separatist movement in the south.
Yemen is up against some of the most difficult challenges that could possibly face any country in the world.
This has led many to conclude that unless the world rushes to help, Yemen could become another failed state in a strategic corner of the world.
It is close to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, and not far off from the shores of Somalia, a failed state where piracy has become a real threat to international trade over the past year.
Mr Mujawar said he was pleased that the international community had renewed its commitment to help Yemen, although there were, as yet, no concrete pledges.
He said he looked forward to the meeting of donor countries in neighbouring Saudi Arabia next month, where he expected the oil-rich members of the Gulf Co-operation Council to do their bit to help Yemen.
"We will ask them to focus on the economy, and projects to reduce poverty.
"We will ask them to absorb Yemeni labour into the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council because we have widespread unemployment, and this is the environment in which extremism flourishes."
Financial aid or help to train the Yemeni security forces to deal with the threat from al-Qaeda and other internal turmoil may go some way towards staving off the risk of Yemen becoming a failed state.
That is arguably the easy bit.