Rebel leader 'ready for dialogue'

The leader of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Abd al-Malik al-Houthi,said yesterday he is “ready for dialogue” to “save the country from corruption and injustice”.

His statement seemed to suggest he is seeking to engage with the opposition Joint Meeting Parties, which has called for a ceasefire, rather than directly with the government.

However, rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdessalam told AFP: "We are ready for dialogue with all political parties in Yemen including the government." He added that the rebels were willing to accept "Yemeni or Arab" mediation aimed at a ceasefire.

The government’s position is that the rebels must first accept the six points it has set as conditions for a ceasefire, and the rebels say they cannot start a dialogue while the war is continuing. 

The Yemeni parliament voted yesterday to lift the parliamentary immunity of Yahya al-Houthi, a member of rebel leader’s family who is also an MP. It is not the first time this has happened, and the move – requested by the justice minister – in effect extends an earlier lifting of immunity for a further three months.

Yahya al-Houthi fled to Germany in 2005, so the decision has little immediate practical effect. It could lead to him being formally expelled from parliament but so far the government has held back from doing that. It is thought the government may want to keep this as a bargaining chip for use in any future negotiations with the rebels.

The military say they have killed more than 100 rebels and wounded 280 in Saada province. Accounts of what happened are sketchy. A military statement quoted by Reuters said the rebels “infiltrated (areas) between military barracks and security posts in Saada province" on Thursday evening and were stopped with “painful and heavy blows”. The Yemen Post saysthe rebels launched a surprise attack on the republican palace, resulting a battle which lasted five hours.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 11 October 2009.