Monday, 28 November 2011

Yemeni opposition leader asked to form national unity gov't


SANAA- Head of Yemen's opposition National Council Mohammed Basindwa was named as new prime minister on Sunday to form a national unity government in line with a power transfer deal, the official Saba news agency reported.

"Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi designated Mohamed Basindwa to form a new national unity government to replace the caretaker government of Ali Mohammed Mujawar," Saba quoted a decree issued by Hadi as saying.

Basindwa, a former member of the ruling party of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, would form a cabinet set to rule until early presidential elections in February 2012.

The step was part of the power transfer deal signed by Saleh last Wednesday in Riyadh.

It was Hadi's second move to implement the UN-backed Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) reconciliation agreement after Saleh agreed to transfer power to his deputy.

On Saturday, the vice president called early presidential elections for Feb. 21 according to the agreement aimed at ending months of pro-democracy protests which demanded an end to Saleh's 33-year rule.

Basindwa was due to form a government with equal participation of the opposition and the ruling party within one week, officials said.

Basindwa, born in 1935, served as the country's foreign minister from 1993 to 1994 and later joined the opposition.

If the agreement goes according to plan, Saleh, who was allowed to retain his ceremonial title in the coming three months, will become the fourth Arab ruler brought down by mass demonstrations.

Hours before the nomination decree, Saleh announced amnesty at a meeting for prisoners jailed during the country's 10-month political crisis this year.

"We granted pardon for everyone committed errors during the crisis, except those who were involved in the June bombing attack against the mosque of the presidential palace," leaders of the ruling party were told.

After the meeting, Hadi ordered to withdraw troops from the streets of the capital Sanaa in line with the terms of the GCC deal, a senior official of the Defense Ministry told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

However, unrest continued to plague the Arabian peninsular country on Sunday with clashes between Shiite Houthi rebels and Sunni Islamist Salafi, killing at least 24 people in the north.

"The shelling by Shiite rebels targeted a Sunni-run Islamic school and its neighboring areas in the Houthi-held restive province of Saada, killing 24 people, including three foreign students -- two Indonesians and one American national," said a provincial security official.

In the southern province of Taiz, witnesses said government troops on Sunday morning shelled the downtown area, where tens of thousands of protesters have been camping for months to press for the prosecution of Saleh.

Two people were killed and four others wounded in the attack, a medic at the protesters' camp said.

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