Qataris suspend mediation between Yemen army, rebels

Other News Materials 18 April 2008 01:14 (UTC +04:00)

A Qatari mediation team has left a restive region in northern Yemen after efforts to implement a Qatari-brokered reconciliation deal between authorities and Shiite rebels reached a deadlock, a Yemeni mediator said Thursday. ( dpa )

Abdu al-Janadi, a leading member of a Yemeni-Qatari committee monitoring the ceasefire, said the 11-member Qatari team left the northern province of Saada for the capital Sana'a earlier this week after differences over the main point of the deal.

The Qatari-mediated ceasefire agreement, signed in Doha in June 2007, put an end to the deadly fighting that lasted for nearly three years between the Yemeni army and members of the outlawed Shiite "Believing Youth" rebel movement in Saada, known as Houthis.

"They felt that the negotiations were fruitless after the insistence of the Houthis not to abandon their positions," al-Janadi told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

"Differences are centred on the 7th term of the agreement as the Houthis insist on their refusal to vacate all the positions they hold," he said.

Under the deal's 7th term, rebels should leave their locations in mountains of Saada on the border with Saudi Arabia, while the government in turn would gradually release detained rebels. Some 347 rebel supporters were released in last February.

The rebels' refusal to hand over their strategic mountainous positions led to the reluctance by authorities to release more detainees, according to al-Janadi.

"They (the Houthis) have not handed over any of their locations since the latest round of negotiations began more than two months ago," al-Janadi said.

He said the head of the Qatari mediation team had flown to Doha, while other team members are remaining in Sana'a.

The agreement also provides that the rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and his two brothers, Yahay and Abdul-Kareem, would be allowed to live in exile in Qatar.

Tens of thousands of army troops were deployed in Saada to crush a revolt that originally began after Shiite cleric Hussein al-Houthi, the elder brother of Abdul-Malik, established the movement in March 2004. Hussein was killed by the army in September the same year.

Waves of violent clashes since mid-2004 have left hundreds of government troops and rebels dead, and displaced thousands of civilians from Saada.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has repeatedly accused the Houthis of trying to topple the republican regime and re-establish the rule of the Zaidi Imamate, a royal regime that was overthrown by a revolution in 1962.

Followers of al-Houthi belong mostly to the Zaidi sect of Islam, which is regarded as a moderate sect.