Yemenis show their support for Houthi-led council

Houthi demonstrators waving Yemeni flags and chanting slogans in Sanaa's Sabeen Square on Saturday. The demonstration - one of the biggest in Yemen since the civil war broke out last year - took place as a Saudi-led coalition backing exiled President
Houthi demonstrators waving Yemeni flags and chanting slogans in Sanaa's Sabeen Square on Saturday. The demonstration - one of the biggest in Yemen since the civil war broke out last year - took place as a Saudi-led coalition backing exiled President Abd-Rabbou Mansour Hadi stepped up air strikes.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RIYADH • Tens of thousands of Yemenis have taken part in a demonstration in the centre of the capital Sanaa to show support for the Houthi-led bloc as the head of the group's new governing council vowed to form a full government in the coming days.

In what appeared to be a response to the Houthi show of force, ambassadors from the Group of 18 nations - which has backed United Nations peace talks to end Yemen's civil war - issued a statement condemning "unconstitutional and unilateral actions in Sanaa".

"The Group of Ambassadors repeats its concern that actions taken by elements of the General People's Congress and the Houthis as well as their supporters are making the search for a peaceful solution more difficult," the envoys said in a statement posted on the United States Embassy's Facebook page.

As Houthi demonstrators waved Yemeni flags and chanted slogans in Sanaa's Sabeen Square on Saturday, Supreme Political Council chairman Saleh al-Samad outlined the council's plans for running the war-ravaged country after the breakdown of the peace talks earlier this month. "Economic affairs will be the priority of our work in the coming period," he said.

In another speech broadcast on Houthi-run television, Mr Samad ordered the Houthi delegation attending peace negotiations in Muscat not to speak with the UN envoy leading the talks, saying they should first return to Sanaa for consultations with the council.

"The hand of peace is still outstretched," he added.

The weekend declaration formalised a vow earlier this month by the Houthis and their allies in the General People's Congress, the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, to establish a body to govern the capital and other parts of the country under their control.

The demonstration - one of the biggest in Yemen since the civil war broke out last year - took place as a Saudi-led coalition backing exiled President Abd-Rabbou Mansour Hadi stepped up air strikes and fighting on the ground intensified.

As the rally was under way, three air strikes targeted the presidential compound - located just 600m from the square - but there were n no casualties, residents said.

Further north, rockets launched over the border from Yemen killed one person and injured five others in the Saudi city of Najran, Saudi state TV reported. Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV said the rockets had targeted a Saudi air force base.

Fighting also escalated for control of Yemen's central bank as President Hadi made plans to relocate the institution outside Houthi-held Sanaa.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Yemenis show their support for Houthi-led council'. Print Edition | Subscribe