UN set to adopt sanctions against Yemen obstructionists

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The United Nations Security Council is set to adopt a resolution ordering sanctions against figures seeking to undermine Yemen's state-building drive, diplomats said on Monday.

The Arab world's poorest country is grappling with an increasingly violent separatist movement in the south, which was independent between the end of British colonial rule in 1967 and union with the north in 1990.

The draft resolution hits offenders with a travel ban and an asset freeze "for an initial period of one year".

Sanctions would be aimed at those who are found to be "obstructing or undermining the successful completion of the political transition" in Yemen, who commit "attacks on essential infrastructure or acts of terrorism" and who violate human rights and international humanitarian law, the document said.

Some countries had wanted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, often blamed for the unrest, named in the document, but the draft resolution refrains from listing any specific individuals or entities. Instead it would establish a committee to make such decisions.

The draft resolution does emphasises, however, that "the transition process requires turning the page" from Saleh's presidency.

The measure could be approved this week by the council, which is "pretty united on Yemen", a Western diplomat said.

After holding talks on Yemen in late January, council president Prince Zeid al-Hussein, Jordan's UN envoy, had said the 15 member states were "ready to take measures" against those who act against the political transition.

A national conference - which began in March 2013 and brought together representatives of different political families, with the exception of southern secessionists - laid the foundations for a six-state federation.

Under the plan the area of former South Yemen would be divided into two regions, while the north would be divided into four regions.

Overseen by the UN and the Gulf states, the conference was one of the keystones that permitted President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to succeed Saleh in 2013, after a year of popular protests.

Hadi has promised to prepare a new constitution and to transition the country into a federal state. But southerners have strongly opposed the push for federalism.