Yemen’s opposition groups elected 143 members of a national council set up to forge unity against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“Our concern about the country has pushed us to establish the council,” Mohammed Basindwah, the president of the National Dialogue Committee at the Joint Meeting Parties coalition, told reporters today in San’a, the capital. “It is meant to secure the country in case the regime starts a war.”
The national council will work to intensify pressure on Saleh to step down and help protect public and private properties in areas where the central government no longer maintains a presence, according to a document distributed by the Joint Meeting Parties.
Mass protests since February in the Arab world’s poorest country have demanded the removal of the president, inspired by popular revolts that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Saleh has been under renewed pressure to end his 33-year rule after spending more than two months in neighboring Saudi Arabia recuperating from injuries sustained in a June 3 attack.
Security forces and Saleh supporters killed one protester and wounded 16 late yesterday in the port city of Hodiedah, Abdhafiz Majib, an activist, said in a phone interview.
Attack On SabaFon
Unidentified gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades today at the head office of SabaFon GSM, a mobile-phone network operator, in Sana’a, the al-Sahwa opposition website reported, without saying where it got the information. Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, an opposition tribal leader, is the company’s chairman.
Bahrain Telecommunications Co., the nation’s largest phone operator, bought a 20 percent stake in SabaFon in March 2007.
The protests have cost the Yemeni economy about $8 billion since the start of the year through July, Al Hayat newspaper said on Aug. 14, citing Trade Minister Hisham Sharaf. Tourism revenue may plunge to less than $50 million in 2011 from $1.1 billion last year, he said, according to the London-based newspaper.
U.S. officials have called for an immediate transfer of power, saying the process can happen even as Saleh convalesces in a Saudi palace. Saleh has remained defiant, saying yesterday in a speech to tribal supporters that he was returning home.
His remarks came amid reports of new talks on a transfer of leadership that would involve him handing over authority to Vice President Abduraboo Mansur Hadi while keeping his title. The proposal includes the formation of a new government and elections for head of state, a senior Yemeni official who was briefed on the negotiations said Aug. 12.
The decision by the main opposition coalition to form a national council was “a declaration of a civil war,” Abdu al-Janadi, deputy information minister, said on Aug. 10.