SANAA (Reuters) - Shi‘ite Houthi rebels set an ultimatum on Friday for Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to form a government in 10 days or face “other options”, raising the tension in a political standoff that has crippled the country.
Once a religious movement in the north seeking greater autonomy, the Houthis have in recent months become Yemen’s power-brokers and sent their militiamen into the west and center of the country, far beyond their traditional redoubts.
They captured the capital Sanaa on Sept. 21, following weeks of anti-government unrest.
A power-sharing accord was signed last month aimed at bringing the Houthis into government. When a new administration is nominated, the Houthis are meant to withdraw their forces from the city.
On Friday, Houthi leaders delivered a statement after a meeting of some 2,000 Houthi supporters in Sanaa. It threatened unspecified “other options” unless Hadi met the deadline.
“The president has 10 days as a final chance to form the government. Otherwise, our next meeting will be at the headquarters of decision-making,” said tribesman Daifallah Rassam, without elaborating.
Another Houthi supporter, officer Nagib al-Mansouri, called for the formation of a “salvation military council”.
The United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, called for a meeting later on Friday with political parties, soon after the Houthi gathering issued its statement setting the deadline for Hadi.
New Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations, flew home this month to take up the post as part of the agreement aimed at stabilizing the country.
The United States and other Western and Gulf countries are worried that instability in Yemen could strengthen al Qaeda and have supported a political transition since 2012 led by Hadi.
Friday’s statement by the Houthis also called for the establishment of “revolutionary committees” across the country and a joint northern-southern committee to find “a just resolution to the southern cause”.
A southern secessionist movement and al Qaeda onslaught on security forces had already stretched the resources of the country of 25 million before the latest crisis, alarming neighboring Gulf Arab states.
Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; writing by Rania El Gamal; editing by Andrew Roche