December 2, 2015 / 12:21 AM / 2 years ago

Yemen PM rejects cabinet reshuffle ordered by president: government source

DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah rejected a cabinet reshuffle ordered on Tuesday by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a senior government official said, another sign of the deepening rift between the two leaders.

Yemen's Vice President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah addresses a gathering of local officials after his arrival to the country's northern province of Marib November 22, 2015. REUTERS/Ali Owidha

Hadi said earlier on Tuesday he was replacing five ministers, including acting Foreign Minister Reyad Yassin Abdulla, according to a decree carried by the Hadi-run state Saba news agency www.sabanew.net.

The Saudi-backed Hadi, who returned to the southern city of Aden last month after he was driven into exile by Houthi fighters in March, is trying to restore his authority in areas recaptured by his supporters from the Iran-allied Houthis.

The dispute could further complicate efforts by a Saudi-led military coalition, which has been fighting the Houthis for the last eight months, to restore Hadi to power.

“A personal announcement will be issued rejecting the ministerial changes because they are illegitimate,” the source told Reuters, adding that Hadi had made the changes without consulting Bahah, who is also the vice president.

Officials from Hadi’s office could not immediately be reached for a comment.

In a statement issued early on Wednesday, Bahah warned that Yemen was passing through “an exceptional era (in its history) and we must not allow mistakes to pass.”

“Rashness must end, and we will try to achieve that, and when we fail to push it away, we will be more clear with our people, our brothers and with ourselves before anybody else,” Bahah wrote in a Facebook posting that did not mention Hadi or refer to the cabinet reshuffle.

Differences between Hadi and Bahah have deepened since the president appointed minister of health Abdullah as acting foreign minister in March without consulting the prime minister, officials close to Bahah said.

They said Bahah had since refused to recognize the appointment and did not allow Abdulla to attend government meetings.

Aides close to Bahah also accuse Hadi of trying to scuttle any settlement of the crisis, fearing a solution would speed up his departure from the presidency.

Hadi was elected for an interim period under a Gulf power transfer deal that had eased his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, out of office following months of protests against his 33 years in office.

Hadi’s supporters accuse Bahah of inefficiency and failure to deliver on reconstruction of Aden after the Houthis were driven out.

In his decree, Hadi appointed Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, a member of the country’s upper house the Shura Council and the chief government negotiator with the Houthis, to be the new foreign minister.

General Hassan Mohammed Jbari was appointed interior minister and Mohammed Qabati as information minister.

The United Nations says that at least 5,700 people, nearly half of them civilians, have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance launched air strikes in March against the Houthis and their allies.

Reporting by Sami Aboudi and Mohammed Ghobari, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Cynthia Osterman

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