U.N. Security Council envoys in Yemen to bolster peace efforts

Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:45pm EST
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By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - U.N. Security Council envoys flew to Yemen amid tight security on Sunday to show support for a U.S.-backed power transfer deal in danger of faltering and plunging the country back into chaos.

Ending political turmoil in Yemen is an international priority - it flanks oil producer Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes and is struggling with multiple conflicts including an al Qaeda insurgency, a Shi'ite Muslim rebellion in the north and separatist forces in the south.

Britain's U.N. representative Mark Lyall Grant, speaking at a news conference in Sanaa after talks with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, warned what he called a minority against spoiling reconciliation efforts in the Arab world's poorest country.

Witnesses said thousands of Yemeni troops backed by armored vehicles and helicopters were deployed across Sanaa as the ambassadors arrived for the one-day trip. Grant said the visit was the first to Yemen by the Security Council and the first it had made for five years to the Middle East.

"We have noticed that a minority are trying to obstruct the political process," he said through a translator, adding that under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2014 the council had the power to take steps against those who blocked reconciliation.

He did not name anyone, but the political reforms being pursued by Hadi include restructuring the armed forces to weaken the influence of the family of his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh stepped down in February 2012 after 33 years in office under the U.S.-backed deal but he remains influential in the military and wider society. His continuing sway over Yemen worries Gulf neighbors and Western nations who fear the political transition could descend into chaos.

Efforts to convene a national reconciliation dialogue central to reform have met resistance from south Yemen separatist leaders who complain of discrimination by the north. Some are pressing for the revival of a separate southern state that merged with north Yemen in 1990.   Continued...

Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (C) addresses a meeting of the United Nations Security Council delegation and Yemeni state officials in Sanaa January 27, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah