09/22/2014, 00.00
YEMEN
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Sanaa: government and Shia rebels reach peace deal

A new government is expected shortly, to include Houthi and other separatist groups. The deal ends weeks of violent clashes that left scores dead. Government buildings and state broadcasters are still occupied. Sunni Islamist Islah movement is the loser (for now). UN plays key mediation role.

Sanaa (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Yemeni government and Shia Houthi rebels have signed an agreement aimed at ending the political crisis that has gripped the country for weeks.

The official announcement came yesterday after rebels seized government headquarters, key ministries and state broadcasters.

Under the deal, a new government will be formed and Houthis and southern separatists will nominate a new prime minister within three days.

Hours earlier, Prime Minister Mohamed Basindawa quit amid clashes between rebels and pro-government forces in the capital that left scores of people dead and hundreds fleeing. He resigned to clear the way for the agreement between the rebels and President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

According to local sources, most of the buildings were seized without a fight, because the army pulled back. Witnesses report that some soldiers took off their uniforms to avoid being taken.

Rebels should leave government and military bases, but it is unclear whether they will respect this part of the Agreement or not.

No one knows how far rebel ambitions stretch. What is certain is that Yemen's president comes out weakened by the imposed agreement.

Similarly, the Sunni Islamist movement Islah is also a loser for now; however, it is unlikely accept the new order quietly.

Based in Yemen's mountainous north, the Houthis have been advancing on the capital for weeks, clashing with rivals and organising mass protests for greater rights.

Houthi rebels, who belong to the minority Zaidi Shia community, have staged periodic uprisings since 2004 to win greater autonomy for Saada province, their northern heartland.

They consolidated control over Saada during the 2011 uprising and since July have inflicted defeats on tribal and militia groups backed by Islah, in neighbouring Amran province.

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