Qatari efforts to revive peace in northern Yemen failed: governor

Other News Materials 15 June 2008 21:55 (UTC +04:00)

Qatari efforts to reconcile the Yemeni government and Shiite rebels battling army forces in north-western Yemen have failed, a provincial governor said on Sunday.

Hassan Mohammad Manna'a, governor of the north-western Yemeni province of Saada, said the failure of the rebels to comply with a Qatari-brokered ceasefire agreement signed last year was the reason the truce collapsed, the dpa reported.

The rebels have "brought to failure all efforts put forth for restoring peace in the province, including efforts exerted by the State of Qatar," Manna'a was quoted as saying by the official Saba news agency.

Fighting between Shiite rebels loyal to the outlawed Believing Youth group, known as Houthis, and government forces has been raging on and off in Saada since mid-2004.

Saada is a remote mountainous province located the border with Saudi Arabia, some 230 kilometres north of the capital Sana'a.

This was the first Yemeni official announcement of the Qatari mediation's failure since Qatari mediators left the country last month.

Manna'a said authorities had observed the agreement and freed many detainees arrested over the conflict in Saada and had redeployed army forces in the province in line with the ceasefire agreement signed in Doha in June 2007.

Hi said the rebels had refused to leave all the strategic mountainous positions they hold in Saada.

Under the Qatari-sponsored deal, rebels should vacate their locations in mountains of Saada, while the government in turn would gradually release detained rebels. Some 347 rebel supporters were released in last February.

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.

Three rounds of talks attended by Qatari observers this year have failed to put an end to the deadly fighting.

Authorities have ordered representatives of foreign media not to report on details of the fighting that continues in Saada.

Tens of thousands of troops were deployed in Saada to crush the 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.

Last month, Saleh vowed to "impose law and order" in Saada.

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