UN in Yemen Fails to Ease Impasse Between Rebels, Politicians

United Nations efforts in Yemen to restart talks between political officials and rebels besieging the presidential palace ended in failure Sunday, as President Barack Obama vowed to pursue counterterrorism operations in the al-Qaeda stronghold.

“We continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen” and will continue that pressure, Obama said Sunday at a news conference in New Delhi. The fight against terrorism is “a long, arduous process,” he said.

Shiite Houthi fighters seized the palace in the capital, Sana’a, on Jan. 20, and President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi resigned two days later. The breakdown in central authority raises the risk that al-Qaeda will expand its operations in a country that borders Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.

Three main political parties said they told UN envoy Jamal Benomar on Sunday that they wouldn’t talk to Houthi leaders until cabinet members and other officials were released from house arrest. Representatives of the Yemen Socialist Party, the Nasserite Unionist People’s party and the Islamist Islah party said by phone that they were also shunning talks to protest Houthi attacks on demonstrators and had urged supporters to join the protests against the rebels.

Rebels kidnapped Ahmed Bin Mubarak, Hadi’s chief of staff, on Jan. 17. The country’s defense minister, justice minister and other officials are under house arrest.

Protesters Attacked

Earlier Sunday, rebels opened fire on demonstrators who had gathered outside Sana’a University to denounce what they called a “coup” against Hadi, protesters said. Three demonstrators were wounded and two others were beaten by armed Houthis wearing the uniforms of government security forces, Ali Ahmed Abdullah, a protester, said by phone.

Houthi gunmen also arrested 30 of the demonstrators outside the university, he said. Abdullah Noaman, secretary-general of the Nasserite Unionist People’s party, said political leaders demanded the Houthis immediately release protesters captured today.

A parliamentary vote today on whether to approve Hadi’s resignation was postponed to give all lawmakers a chance to attend the session, state-run Saba news agency reported. No new date was announced.

The rebels from Yemen’s north, who say they have been marginalized by the central government for decades, have become an increasingly influential force since President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011. Yemen’s government has struggled to exert authority over much of the country amid challenges by separatists, political protesters and Islamist militants.

The tumult engulfing the country has extended to the southern port city of Aden, where non-Houthi militias clashed with government forces who recently announced they are no longer taking orders from the central government. One of the security personnel was killed, Brigadier Mohammed Musaed, a member of the security committee in Aden, said by phone.

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