Head of Arab Gulf council visits Yemen's embattled president

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2015 12:37 PM
Head of Arab Gulf council visits Yemen's embattled president

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A group of oil-rich Arab Gulf countries threw their support behind Yemen's embattled president Wednesday as the group's chief visited Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in a southern port city he fled to amid the Shiite rebel power grab in the capital, Sanaa.

Hadi's top aides said the Gulf Cooperation Council's secretary-general, Abdullatif al-Zayani, visited the president in Aden. Hadi recently retracted the resignation he submitted after Shiite Houthi rebels held him under house arrest for a month in Sanaa.

The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. The Gulf countries see the Houthis as an Iranian-backed group trying to expand the Shiite powerhouse's influence in the region.

Hadi told al-Zayani that he called on all state and government institutions to move to Aden, where he has relocated, according to a statement from his office.

The Houthis have warned foreign diplomats and state employees against viewing Hadi as Yemen's legitimate leader. They also have arrested politicians trying to reach Aden.

On Wednesday, Abdullah Noaman, the leader the Nasserist party — one of Yemen's main political parties — was held at Sanaa airport by Houthi rebels, a party official said.

A senior politician from Yemen's Socialist Party said that he and other party members met with Houthi representatives late Tuesday. He said the Houthis warned them that if they head to Aden, their party risks being dissolved.

Later Wednesday, the Socialists declared they are pulling out of the U.N.-sponsored talks with the Houthis to protest the rebels' crackdown on opposition protests in the capital earlier. It was not immediately possible to reach Houthi leaders for comment.

The Houthis swept into Sanaa in September and recently dissolved parliament. They are Zayidi Shiites and had struck an alliance with ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, also a Zayidi.

Overnight, the Houthis took control of a major army base for Yemen's U.S.-financed and trained special forces, led by commandos loyal to Saleh, according to officers who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone.

Also Wednesday, southern secessionists warned against the conflict between Hadi and the Houthis escalating to the point where it brings war to the south.

In Sanaa, meanwhile, Houthi militiamen beat back thousands of protesters with batons and fired automatic rifles into the air, security officials and witnesses said.

Hadi's aides, the soldiers and others spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists.