Yemen rebels, officials in talks on crisis deal

The rebels and a presidency source said a potential deal had been reached to end the stalemate

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Shiite rebels and Yemeni officials met Friday to fine-tune a deal to end a standoff sparked by calls for the government to quit, a source close to the talks said.

Zaidi rebels have been camped out for weeks in the capital, demanding the resignation of the government which they accuse of corruption, and a reduction of fuel prices.

On Thursday the rebels and a presidency source said a potential deal had been reached to end the stalemate.

The accord, reached late Wednesday, stipulates that “a new prime minister will be named within 48 hours” and fuel prices will be cut further, the presidency source told AFP.

Another source in President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi’s office said it was an “understanding over an agreement that will be finalised by (UN envoy Jamal) Benomar”, who arrived Sanaa on Thursday.

Talks to fine-tune the deal were held late Thursday and into the night between government representatives led by presidential adviser Abdelkarim al-Ariani and Mehdi Machchat for the rebels.

“Progress has been achieved,” the source close to the talks said.

Discussions are focusing on a new premier and cutting fuel prices -- two key rebel demands, the source said.

The rebels, known as Huthis or Ansarullah, had been demanding that Hadi consult them before naming a new prime minister.

The rebels have battled the government for years from their Saada heartland in the remote north, complaining of marginalisation under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

He was forced from power in February 2012, after a deadly 11-month uprising, and replaced by Hadi.

Hadi’s government is trying to push a plan for a six-region federation, but the rebels and southern separatists are rejecting the move.

On Friday the source close to the talks said that the rebels “are demanding a revision of the outline of the future federal state to ensure that their province has an outlet to the Red Sea”.

A rebel official confirmed that differences remain but said that the talks were still under way on Friday.

“There are differences but the negotiations to solve the crisis are being held in a positive climate,” the source said.

On the streets of Sanaa, Ansarullah supporters demonstrated on Airport Road Friday while government loyalists held a rival protest, witnesses said, noting that unlike in past weeks the rallies were peaceful.

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