Pro and anti-Saleh forces decide to withdraw from Taez city in bid to end political crisis


Yemeni forces loyal to outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh and opposition gunmen are withdrawing from the streets of Taez city, an official said on Friday, as part of an effort to stop fighting that has threatened a political solution to the country's crisis.

Dozens have been killed in Taez, Yemen’s commercial capital, since Saleh signed a deal last month to give up power and end months of anti-government protests that have pushed the impoverished country to the brink of civil war.

The official said a committee set up to restore normality to Taez was clearing away makeshift road blocks set up by Saleh opponents and loyalists during street battles, and overseeing their withdrawal from occupied buildings.

Separately, Saleh’s General People's Congress (GPC) party said it would stop holding pro-government rallies after Friday prayers to show its commitment to a political solution to Yemen’s woes.

“The decision by the party’s leadership is a new sign of the GPC’s eager desire to act in the higher interest of the nation and to begin ending the political crisis,” said a statement from the party, urging opposition parties to do the same.

Under the power transfer plan negotiated by Yemen’s wealthy Gulf neighbors, the GPC and the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) agreed to divide up cabinet posts between them and form a national unity government to steer the country ahead of presidential elections next February.

The cabinet, which is due to be sworn in on Saturday, faces a host of challenges including a southern separatist movement, a rebellion in the north and a regional wing of al-Qaeda that has exploited the upheaval to strengthen its foothold in Yemen.

Neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United States, both targets of foiled attacks by al-Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, fear the global militant network could use a gaping security vacuum to plot and perhaps carry out attacks on the region and beyond.

The interior ministry said it was making arrangements for the United Nations envoy who helped broker the power transfer deal to visit the north and south of the country, where central government control has been severely weakened.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Mohammed Basindwa, who is now prime minister, said his first foreign visit would be to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ask for urgent support for Yemen’s fuel and electricity needs.

New unity government

Yemen’s new 34-member cabinet is divided equally among Saleh loyalists and the formal opposition Common Forum.

Saleh’s ministers for foreign affairs and defense have retained their posts.

The interior ministry, the human rights portfolio, finance and information ministries have been entrusted to the opposition.

The new government will carry out its duties for three months, after which elections will be held and Vice President Hadi will formally take over the presidency.

Following is a list of the new Yemen cabinet:

-Prime Minister: Mohammed Basindawa (Opposition leader)

-Foreign Minister: Abu Bakr al-Qourbi (GPC)

-Defence Minister: Mohammed Nasser Ahmed (GPC)

-Interior Minister: Abdelqader Qahtan (Opposition)

-Justice Minister: Morshed Ali al-Arshani (Opposition)

-Finance Minister: Sakhr Ahmed Abbas (Opposition)

-Information Minister: Ali Ahmed al-Amrani (Opposition)

-Health Minister: Ahmed Qasem al-Ansi (GPC)

-Minister for Human Rights: Houriya Mashhour Ahmed (Opposition)

-Agriculture and Irrigation Minister: Farid Ahmed al-Moujawar (GPC)

-Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research: Yahya Mohammed al-Shoueibi (GPC)

-Religious Affairs Minister: Hammoud Mohammed al-Abad (GPC)

-Labour and Social Affairs Minister: Amat al-Razzaq Hamad (GPC)

-Public Works Minister: Omar Abdullah al-Korshami (GPC)

-Electricity Minister: Saleh Hasan Sami (Opposition)

-Petroleum and Minerals Minister: Hisham Sharaf Abdullah (GPC- former minister of trade and industry)

-Minister of Planning and International Cooperation: Mohammed Said al-Saadi (Opposition- Islamic Islah party)

-Telecommunications Minister: Ahmed Obeif bin Dagher (GPC)

-Education Minister: Abdelrazzaq Yahya al-Ashwal (Opposition)

-Legal Affairs Minister: Mohammed Ahmed al-Makhlafi (Opposition)

-Tourism Minister: Qasim Salam (Saleh loyalist)

-Water and Environment Minister: Abdo Razaz Saleh Khaled (Opposition)

-Culture Minister: Abdullah Manthouq (Opposition)

-Minister of Transport: Waed Abdullah Batheeb (Opposition)

-Minister of Trade and Industry: Saad Eddine Ali Salem bin Taleb (Opposition)

-Minister for Expatriate Affairs: al-Qahali (GPC)

-Minister of Vocational Training: Abdel Hafeth Thabet Noman (Opposition)

-Minister of Local Government Affairs: Ali Mohammed al-Yazidi (Opposition)

-Youth and Sports Minister: Moammar al-Iryani (GPC)

-Civil Services Minsiter: Nabil Abdo Shamsan (GPC)

-Minister for Fishing Resources: Awad Mohammed Saqtari (GPC- former electricity minister)

-Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs: Rashad Ahmed Rasas (GPC)

-Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs: Jawhara Hammoud Thabet (Opposition)

-Minister of State (without portfolio) Shaef Aziz Sagheer (GPC)

-Minister of State (without portfolio) Hasan Ahmed Sharaf Eddine (Opposition)