U.N. chief pushes for political dialogue in divided Yemen

Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:38am EST
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By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged on Monday to help rescue stumbling efforts to implement a power transfer deal in Yemen that pulled the Arabian Peninsula country back from the brink of civil war last year.

Restoring stability in Yemen, a U.S. ally grappling with al Qaeda militants and southern separatists, is an international priority due to fears of disorder ripping apart a state that flanks top oil producer Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.

"The United Nations is standing here to reconfirm its strong commitment that we stand side by side with the government and people of Yemen in your (pursuit of)... progress towards a better and prosperous future, characterized by reconciliation and democratic participation," Ban told a joint news conference with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Sanaa.

Ban was making his initial visit to the impoverished Arab country to mark the first anniversary of the U.S.- and Gulf-sponsored power transfer accord that ended months of mass protests against veteran strongman President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The deal mandates Hadi to oversee major reforms during a two-year interim period to ensure a transition to democracy, including amending the constitution and restructuring the armed forces to break Saleh's family grip on them.

The process is expected to lead to presidential and parliamentary election in 2014.

But efforts to convene a national reconciliation dialogue central to reform has met resistance from south Yemen separatist leaders. Many have taken advantage of weakened central state authority in the south to return from exile and press for reviving the state that merged with north Yemen in 1990.

Many southerners complain northerners based in the capital Sanaa have discriminated against them and usurped their resources. Most of Yemen's fast-declining oil reserves are in the south. The central government denies discriminatory policy.   Continued...

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi (L) gestures after presenting the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with the Unity Medal during a ceremony in Sanaa November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah