SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The leader of Yemen's largest and most powerful tribe has urged Yemen's factions, including al-Qaida, to renounce violence and open a dialogue. The alternative, he said, is armed conflict.
Yemen's president has warned that if next month's dialogue attempt fails, his country could descend into civil war.
More than a year of political turmoil has rocked Yemen, surrounding a successful popular and tribal uprising to force the resignation of longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. The disarray has left an opening for militants like al-Qaida to solidify their strongholds in the country. Al-Qaida's Yemen branch is considered its most dangerous, blamed for several attempted attacks in the U.S.
Though Saleh is out of office, he and his supporters are accused of continuing to meddle in Yemen's affairs, contributing to continuing instability, just as the new government tries to rout the militant forces.
Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of Hashid tribal confederation, told the first meeting of the alliance of Yemen's tribes Saturday that the Hawthi Shiite Muslims in the north, the armed secessionists in the south and al-Qaida must reject violence and join in the political process, without preconditions.
He said all of Yemen's political parties, tribes and civil society groups should take part in the national dialogue, starting Nov. 15.
"The road to solving problems is to leave arms behind and turn to dialogue," he said, "so that the Yemeni people will not be forced to resort to the logic of blood."
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said last week in New York that the national dialogue would be crucial for the future of the shaky, war-scarred and impoverished country. He said it was principally meant to deal with separatist movements in the south, and to be a sounding board for Yemeni women and youth.
He warned that if the national dialogue failed, the country would face a civil war.
The tribal alliance includes some 600 leaders and influential sheiks trying to steer the country's policies to serve their interests. That runs contrary to the demands of the revolutionary youth, who led the protests against Saleh. They want an efficiently run regime based on social justice.
Trouble emerged for the dialogue a month before it was to begin.
Sheik Mohammed al-Shayef, chief of the Bakeel tribe, Yemen's other main southern tribal confederation, boycotted the Saturday meeting. He warned that the call for al-Qaida to join the dialogue would lead the country to more fighting and chaos.
"Why should I talk to al-Qaida, whose followers kill people and civilians in the name of Islam," al-Shayef told The Associated Press.
Activist Shaher Mohammed said the sacrifices of the youth had vanished, while influential political, tribal and military personnel were benefiting.
"The tribes and the military have killed the dream of the Yemenis to establish a civil state," Mohammed told AP. Also, he doubted that al-Qaida would agree to the conditions of the dialogue — renouncing violence.