Shiite rebels back choice of new Yemen premier
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s president on Monday appointed a diplomat and former oil minister as prime minister after securing backing of Islamists as well as Shiite rebels who control the capital, a move welcomed by the U.N. Security Council which called for the new government to implement a roadmap to peace and democracy.
The appointment of Khaled Bahah, Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations, is part of a peace deal brokered by the United Nations after Shiite Houthi rebels swept through the capital Sanaa and took over army barracks, ministries and vital state institutions last month. Their takeover came amid increasing terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which the Security Council condemned.
Bahah will have 30 days to form a government in the restive Arabian Peninsula nation after rival political groups gave their backing to his selection by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, state media reported.
Under terms of the U.N. deal, Hadi was to appoint a new prime minister after securing consensus of various political factions. Houthis, the rival Islah party, and representatives of a southern movement signed the deal.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest and perhaps most chronically unstable nation, has faced a troubled transition after long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down after a 2011 uprising inspired by the Arab Spring. .
Hadi, who has U.N. and U.S. backing, faces sectarian challenges both from the Houthis and hardline Sunni Muslims, including al-Qaida.
Unlike most Arab Spring countries, Yemen embarked on a national dialogue and all political parties agreed on a road map for a political transition after months of talks that ended on Jan. 25. Hadi pledged to follow up by establishing commissions to draft a constitution and work out details of a new federation for the country, but the road map remains stalled and under threat.
The Security Council, after an emergency meeting that ended late Monday, expressed deep concern at developments in Yemen, urged the new government to expedite reforms especially in the army and security forces, and said it is prepared to impose sanctions on “spoilers” threatening the country’s peace, security and stability.
It called for evidence to be urgently submitted to the sanctions committee against those blocking implementation of the road map.
While no names were mentioned, Hadi has in the past accused ex-president Saleh of trying to stage a “coup” to abort the transition process.
Jamal Benomar, the U.N. special adviser on Yemen who has been a key mediator, said he told the Security Council that “the transition is at risk of collapsing” and the only way forward is to implement the road map.
He told reporters he left the closed council meeting convinced that its members “will spare no efforts to support the Yemeni people in their legitimate pursuit of peaceful change.”
Benomar welcomed the appointment of Bahah to the post of prime minister as “one step forward,” stressing that “now swift action is needed to ensure the formation of the government.”
Born in 1965, Bahah is from southern Yemen, studied banking and graduated from an Indian university. He has also previously served as oil minister and ambassador to Canada.
Bahah is set to become Yemen’s first new prime minister in two years, after Mohammed Salem Bassindwa was forced out last month. Bassindwa was criticized for the country’s deteriorating security situation and as too close to Islah, which is one of Yemen’s traditional power bases.
Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations