Yemeni parties mandate formation of new government by President Hadi

SANAA (REUTERS) - Yemen's main political factions, including the Houthi rebels, signed an agreement on Saturday mandating the president and prime minister to form a new government in an effort to defuse political tensions that have crippled the impoverished state.

Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah will head the selection of the new ministers with consultation from President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, an statement emailed from the 13 political parties said.

"We, the political parties, ask President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah to form a competent national government... which is committed to the protection of human rights, rule of law and neutrality in the management of affairs of the country," the statement said.

The statement did not mention when the new government would be formed, but a number of party members who were involved in the negotiations that led to Saturday's agreement said it could be in a few days or a week.

UN special envoy Jamal Benomar, who attended the meetings, told Reuters that under the agreement parties that do not have representatives in the president's advisory body will be allowed to nominate candidates for the different ministries.

"Following that the prime minister will choose the more competent candidates for each posting," said Benomar.

Yemen's Shi'ite Houthi rebels were among the groups who signed the agreement, according to the signatures on the agreement seen by Reuters.

The Houthis gave Hadi an ultimatum on Friday to form a government in 10 days or face "other options".

In recent months, the Houthis have become Yemen's power-brokers and sent their militiamen into the west and centre of the country, far beyond their traditional redoubts.

They captured the capital Sanaa on Sept 21, following weeks of anti-government unrest.

The United States and other Western and Gulf countries are worried that instability in the country of 25 million could strengthen Al-Qaeda and have supported a political transition since 2012 led by Hadi.

A southern secessionist movement and Al-Qaeda onslaught on security forces had already stretched the resources of the government before the latest crisis, alarming neighboring Gulf Arab states.