A member of the Yemeni security forces loyal to the Huthi Shiite shouts slogans during a demonstration near the cabinet's headquarters in Sanaa calling for the government to resign on September 1, 2014
A member of the Yemeni security forces loyal to the Huthi Shiite shouts slogans during a demonstration near the cabinet's headquarters in Sanaa calling for the government to resign on September 1, 2014 © Mohammed Huwais - AFP
A member of the Yemeni security forces loyal to the Huthi Shiite shouts slogans during a demonstration near the cabinet's headquarters in Sanaa calling for the government to resign on September 1, 2014
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Hammoud Mounassar, AFP
Last updated: September 1, 2014

Shiite rebels rally in Sanaa after leader defies UN

Tens of thousands of Shiite rebel activists demonstrated in the Yemeni capital Monday, heeding a call by their leader to press their campaign to oust the government in defiance of the UN.

The show of strength by the Zaidi Shiite rebels caused traffic jams on several major roads in Sanaa, an AFP correspondent reported, as sources said the president has sent an envoy for renewed talks with the rebels' leader.

"President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has sent Sanaa governor Abdulqader Hilal to (the rebels' stronghold) Saada to meet (their leader) Abdulmalik al-Huthi," a source close to the presidency told AFP.

Hilal will hand Huthi "a letter in which President Hadi is urging him to be more sensible and prevent a civil war in Yemen," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A local source in Saada confirmed to AFP that Hilal arrived in Saada by private plane on Monday afternoon and headed "immediately" to Huthi's residence.

A presidential committee assigned with resolving the crisis is also "working non-stop" to find a solution within "the next 48 hours", a committee source told AFP.

Three days of talks at the end of August between the authorities and the rebels failed to reach a deal to end the political standoff.

In a speech late on Sunday, Huthi called on supporters who have been manning armed protest camps in the capital for the past week to continue their campaign to topple the national unity government, from which the rebels are excluded.

- 'UN supporting corruption' -

Huthi slammed a demand by the UN Security Council on Friday for the camps in Sanaa to be dismantled and for the rebels to pull back from areas they have occupied in recent months.

He accused the council, which threatened sanctions against groups blocking the political transition in impoverished Yemen, of "supporting corruption and backing policies that lead to further poverty".

The rebels have been campaigning since early August for the national unity government to be replaced and for unpopular austerity policies it has adopted, including a sharp rise in fuel prices, to be reversed.

They are demanding a broader political partnership.

Huthi urged his supporters to continue their protests "until the end of this week, and we might start with new actions next week" which could include civil disobedience.

Analysts say the rebels are trying to establish themselves as the dominant political force in the northern highlands, where the Zaidi Shiites are the majority community.

On Monday, the official Saba news agency quoted Hadi as saying that "Yemen is undergoing a difficult phase and is facing plots from several parties".

"There is a regional country that wants to stir up chaos in Sanaa and burn it down like Damascus and Baghdad," said Hadi.

The authorities in Yemen have in the past accused Iran of backing the Huthi uprising.

"We will use all peaceful means to prevent a civil war in Yemen," Hadi said.

Yemen has been locked in a protracted transition since long-time strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February 2012 after a deadly 11-month uprising.

The government's plans for a six-region federation to address the grievances of the regions have been rejected by both the Shiite rebels and southern separatists.

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