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Yemen strikes deal with rebels

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Yemeni authorities re-opened the country’s main port in the southern city of Aden on Thursday, in a move that could ease political tensions. It came hours after embattled President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi struck a deal with powerful Houthi rebels.

“The decision to re-open Aden’s port and airport was made by the [city’s] Higher Security Committee,” a local official told dpa, asking not to be named.

Employees returned to work at the two facilities, a day after pro-Hadi officials closed them in support of the internationally recognized president against the Houthis.

Earlier in the week, the Houthis seized the presidential palace in the capital Sana’a and besieged Hadi’s house, heightening turmoil in the Arabian Peninsula country.

Despite the deal unveiled on Wednesday, the Houthis were still controlling the presidential palace and standing guard on Hadi’s residence, witnesses said. Hadi has conceded some of the key demands set out by rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi in return for the rebels freeing his chief of staff Ahmed bin Mubarak, whom they abducted on Saturday.

“Bin Mubarak’s release will be made to synchronize with the authorities’ implementation of the national partnership principle,” Houthi politburo member Mohammed al-Bakheiti told dpa without giving details.

The draft constitution, to which the Houthis have objected, will be amended to bring it into line with a previous agreement between Hadi and the rebels and will require all-party consensus.

The deal confirms that the new Yemen will be a federal state, but it does not mention the six-region plan vehemently rejected by the Shiite movement, which now controls much of northern Yemen, including Sana’a.

Under the agreement, the Houthis and southern separatists will gain further representation in government bodies, and Hadi is to take steps within a week to resolve the situation in the oil-rich province of Mareb, which is largely controlled by tribes hostile to the Houthis.

The Houthis, who seek to revive the Zaydi Shiite traditions of Yemen’s northern highlands, have expanded across much of the country over the past year, and took effective control of Sana’a in September, exploiting the central government’s weakness.

The Houthis’ territorial expansion has angered local Sunni tribes and drawn a string of attacks from Sunni al-Qaeda operatives. Yemen also faces a secessionist movement in the south. SAPA

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