Yemen Shiite rebels, southern group slam federation plan

Shiite rebels in the north claimed the division of the republic would not distribute wealth evenly

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Northern Shiite rebels and a faction demanding southern autonomy Tuesday rejected a six-region federation plan for Yemen, which was agreed by parties during the “national dialogue” aimed at securing the country’s political transition.

A panel headed by President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi on Monday agreed the plan, which will be inserted into a new constitution and will divide Yemen into six federal regions -- four in the north and two in the south.

But Shiite rebels in the north claimed the division of the republic would not distribute wealth evenly, while a southern faction said the plan did not meet their aspirations for autonomy.

“We have rejected it because it divides Yemen into poor and wealthy” regions, said Mohammad al-Bakheiti of the Shiite rebel group Ansarullah.

The six regions laid out in the plan include four in the north comprising Azal, Saba, Janad and Tahama, and two in the formerly independent south, Aden and Hadramawt.

Under the plan the northern province of Saada, bastion of Ansarullah rebels, also known as Huthis, is part of the Azal region -- a zone that also includes Sanaa, Amran and Dhamar -- that has no significant natural resources or access to sea.

“Saada has stronger cultural, social and geographical links with (coastal) Hajja, and Jawf” on the border with Saudi Arabia, Bakheiti said.

Mohammad Ali Ahmed, head of the People’s Congress of the South - a Southern Movement faction, told AFP that “our positon is clear... We reject these decisions because they do not meet the aspirations of our people in the south.”

Southerners are demanding “the right of self-determination and regaining a sovereign state,” said Ahmed, who headed a delegation that withdrew from the national dialogue in November in protest at proposals for multiple units for the north.

Yemen’s parties had been divided on whether to split the future federation into two or six regions.

Sanaa feared that a straight north-south divide could set the stage for the disgruntled south to secede.

The southern question has been a major stumbling block in the talks, with hardline factions of the Southern Movement boycotting the discussions since the beginning of talks and demanding complete secession.

After the former North and South Yemen united in 1990, the south broke away in 1994, triggering a brief civil war that ended with the region being overrun by northern troops.

The national dialogue was stipulated by a Gulf-brokered and U.N.-backed roadmap that ended a year of Arab spring-inspired protests against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2012 after 33 years in power.

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