Yemen panel to draft charter on six-region federation

SANAA (AFP) - President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has ordered a panel to draw up a constitution that would transform Yemen into a six-region federation, state media reported, despite opposition in the north and south.

The 17-member panel, which includes four women, is expected to implement a decentralisation plan agreed at a national conference last year to create four regions in north Yemen and two in the south.

The presidential decree gives the panel one year to draw up the constitution to be put to a referendum within a year, after being adopted by a commission overseeing its work, the official Saba news agency reported on Saturday.

The panel composed of experts including former diplomats and judges was ordered to act "independently of the executive branch and political formations in the country," said Saba.

Overseen by the United Nations and the Gulf states, the national conference that hatched the plan was one of the keystones that permitted Mr Hadi to succeed long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2013, ousted after a year of popular protests.

The plan aims to meet demands for autonomy in the south and will be accompanied by compensation for its residents, who have risen up against what they call discrimination in favour of the north.

But southerners wanted a federal state made up of two provinces based on the former South Yemen, which was independent between the end of British colonial rule in 1967 and its union with the north in 1990.

And Shiite Huthi rebels in the north also rejected the decentralisation plan, which they feel splits Yemen into rich and poor regions.

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