Shiite leader defends Yemen takeover


SANAA: Shiite leader Abdel Malek al-Huthi on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) defended his powerful militia’s establishment of transitional bodies to resolve Yemen’s political crisis, in the face of street protests and international criticism.

“This historic and responsible initiative is in the interest of the country, because it fills a political vacuum,” Huthi said in a televised address to his supporters gathered in a northern Sanaa stadium.

He said it was “in the interest of all Yemenis without exception,” including the separatists of southern Yemen.

The formation of a “presidential council,” announced on Friday, would also head off the threat from Al-Qaeda which has a strong presence in east and south Yemen, Huthi said.

“If Al-Qaeda takes control of the country, it will plot against our brothers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf,” he warned.

However, Yemen’s Gulf neighbors have condemned the moves by the Shiite militia, named Huthis after their leadership, saying they “totally undermine” international and regional efforts to help resolve the impoverished country’s crisis.

“The Huthi coup marks a grave and unacceptable escalation and endangers the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen,” said the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The six Sunni monarchies said their own security was linked to that of their neighbor Yemen, and vowed to take “all the necessary measures to defend their interests,” without elaborating.

The Shiite militia overran Sanaa in September and seized the presidential palace and key government buildings last month, prompting Western-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah to tender their resignations.

In an announcement on Saturday, the Huthis said Hadi’s defense minister, General Mahmud al-Subaihi, would chair a newly formed “security commission”, which also included the outgoing interior minister.

The commission’s task would be to “lead the country’s affairs until the establishment of a presidential council.”



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