Yemen begins new national talks as Hadi hails progress

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Yemen began the second round of its national dialogue in Sanaa on Saturday, as President Abrabuh Mansur Hadi hailed progress made in talks in March.

The UN-backed dialogue aims to draft a new constitution and preparing for elections in 2014, after a two-year transition led by Hadi.

Saturday’s dialogue was held as part of the UN-brokered deal that eased former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power after an 11-month uprising against his 33-year rule.

“We are holding our second open session amid changes, developments and positive achievements,” Hadi said at the opening of the talks at the presidential palace in Sanaa.

He added that talks had taken steps towards “drawing the outlines of a new Yemen where justice, equality and freedom prevail.”

Nine work groups have been created since April whose members met nearly 11,000 personalities representing officials and civil society from all of Yemen’s 17 provinces.

The work groups have put forward their recommendations which delegates will discuss in the next phase of dialogue, Hadi told the meeting.

Saturday’s session was attended by UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar and Gulf Cooperation Council chief Abdullatif al-Zayani -- both of whom played key roles in sealing a power transfer deal that eased Saleh from office.

Zayani reiterated the support of Yemen’s Gulf neighbours for Hadi’s “leadership in all the decisions, measures and steps he had taken to implement the Gulf Initiative and its roadmap.”

The Gulf Arab states “support all consensus agreements the National Dialogue will reach and which will reflect the overall will of the Yemeni people and ensure Yemen’s unity, sovereignty and stability.”

The dialogue kicked off on March 18 and is due to run for six months.

It brings together 565 representatives from Yemen’s various political groups, ranging from southern secessionists to Zaidi Shiite rebels in the north, as well as representatives from civil society organizations.

“Yemen can no longer withstand more crises and there are many challenges,” said Hadi, adding that “terrorism” in the country poses a particular problem.

Yemen is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which the US classifies as the deadliest franchise in the network, and which exploited central government weakness during the uprising to seize swathes of land in the south.

The army, backed by U.S. drones, has managed to regain control of those territories.

But extremists have regrouped in several areas and are accused of carrying out hit-and-run attacks on security forces.

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