Yemen’s prime minister-designate Mohammed Basindawa is expected to announce a national unity government within two days, a European diplomat and a Yemeni official said on Sunday.
The government “will be formed within the next couple of days, and if they do it today it is even better,” Michele Cervone d’Urso, the EU’s first ambassador to Yemen, told AFP.
Half of the government must be opposition members while regime loyalists make up the other half, based on a Gulf-brokered and U.N.-backed power transfer plan which President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed on November 23.
But Yemen’s outgoing deputy information minister, Abdo al-Janadi, said he expected the government to be announced Sunday.
The 14-member commission will tackle the withdrawal of gunmen from the streets in a bid to restore order in the country. Some of the security forces are still controlled by cronies of Saleh.
Fighting continued for the fourth day between loyalists and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, leaving two people dead in artillery fire in the southern Yemeni city of Taez on Sunday.
The deaths bring to at least 19 the toll from fighting in the city ̶ a center of ten months of protests demanding the end Saleh’s 33-year rule ̶ that threatens a deal to ease him from power and end chaos that has swept Yemen during the protests.
That deal was crafted by Yemen’s richer Gulf Arab neighbors, who share U.S. fears a political and security vacuum will embolden the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda, and see multiple internal conflicts turn into full-blown civil war.Workers at a field hospital in the city some 200 km (120 miles) south of the capital Sana’a said a woman and child died from injuries suffered while trapped in a building hit by artillery fire in the midst of the fighting.
Residents said on Saturday government forces used artillery, tanks and rockets in residential areas of Taez, trapping about 3,000 families during skirmishes with opposition fighters who responded with medium and light fire.
Taez is the second largest city in Yemen.
Deal under fire
Meanwhile, Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Basindwa, an opposition leader, has warned his side would rethink its commitments under the transition deal if the fighting in Taez did not stop.
Opposition parties that are to form a government between them and members of Saleh’s ruling party demand the immediate formation of a military committee agreed last month as part of the deal in which Saleh signed powers over to his deputy.
Under the agreement, the military committee, headed by Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, would run the armed forces ̶ key units of which are run by Saleh's relatives ̶ and oversee the end of fighting and the return of forces to barracks.
It would have equal numbers from Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) and the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP).
A GPC official said on Saturday Saleh’s party was not happy about opposition nominees to the committee, and the state news agency later quoted Hadi’s office as saying any agreement on the military body depended on forming a government.
Near Yemen’s southern restive city of Zinjibar in Abyan province, five Yemeni soldiers were killed in an attack by al-Qaeda suspects on their post, a military official told AFP on Sunday.
“Al-Qaeda militants attacked a military barracks using rocket propelled grenades and machineguns east of Zinjibar... killing five soldiers” late on Saturday, the official said.
A medic at the military hospital in the main southern city of Aden confirmed that the facility had received the bodies of five soldiers.
The deaths were the latest in a string of casualties in Abyan.
Government forces are struggling to wrest control of at least three provincial cities, including Zinjibar, that since May have fallen to Qaeda-linked militants known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law).
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its local affiliates have taken advantage of the government’s distraction with 10 months of protests against president Saleh to strengthen their hold on the country’s south.
Despite months of clashes, government troops have so far been unable to win back full control of Abyan.