Yemen's President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi listens during the second national dialogue conference in Sanaa on June 8, 2013
Yemen's President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi listens during the opening session of the second national dialogue conference in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa on June 8, 2013. National dialogue talks began in March 2013 and are due to run for six months to pave the way for a new constitution and elections in Yemen. © Mohammed Huwais - AFP
Yemen's President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi listens during the second national dialogue conference in Sanaa on June 8, 2013
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AFP
Last updated: June 8, 2013

Yemen begins new national talks as Hadi hails progress

Yemen began the second round of its national dialogue in Sanaa on Saturday, as President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi hailed progress made during talks in March.

The UN-backed dialogue aims to draft a new constitution and prepare for elections in 2014, after a two-year transition led by Hadi.

Saturday's dialogue was part of a UN-brokered deal that eased former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power after an 11-month uprising against his 33-year rule.

"We are holding our second open session amid changes, developments and positive achievements," Hadi said at the opening of the dialogue in Sanaa.

He added the talks had taken steps towards "drawing the outlines of a new Yemen where justice, equality and freedom prevail."

Nine work groups have been created since April whose members met nearly 11,000 personalities representing officials and civil society from across Yemen.

These groups have made recommendations which delegates will discuss in the next phase of dialogue, Hadi said.

Saturday's session was attended by UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar and Gulf Cooperation Council chief Abdullatif al-Zayani -- who both played key roles in sealing a power transfer deal that eased Saleh from office.

Zayani reiterated the support of Yemen's Gulf neighbours for Hadi's "leadership in all the decisions, measures and steps he had taken to implement the Gulf Initiative".

The Gulf Arab states "support all consensus agreements the National Dialogue will reach and which will reflect the overall will of the Yemeni people and ensure Yemen's unity, sovereignty and stability."

The dialogue kicked off on March 18 and is due to run for six months.

It brings together 565 representatives from Yemen's various political groups, ranging from southern secessionists to Zaidi Shiite rebels in the north, as well as representatives from civil society organisations."Yemen can no longer withstand more crises and there are many challenges," said Hadi, adding that "terrorism" in the country poses a particular problem.

Yemen is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which the US classifies as the deadliest franchise in the network and which exploited central government weakness during the uprising in 2011 to seize swathes of land in the south.

The army, backed by US drones, has managed to regain control of those territories.

But extremists have regrouped in several areas and are accused of carrying out hit-and-run attacks on security forces.

The talks, originally scheduled to open last November, were delayed mainly due to the refusal of some factions in the Southern Movement -- which seeks autonomy or secession for the formerly independent south -- to join the initiative.

Most agreed to take part after months of negotiations and UN pressure.

But hardliners led by South Yemen's former president Ali Salem al-Baid have insisted on negotiations between two independent states in the north and south.

Hadi warned on Saturday that those calling for the boycott of the talks for their own political gains "will face the anger of the Yemeni people who see dialogue as their only hope".

Supporters of southern independence often stage demonstrations against national dialogue.

Last month, a Southern Movement leader, Ahmed bin Farid al-Suraimah, withdrew from the talks in protest at what he said was a "plot against the southern cause."

Hadi had accused Iran of backing a southern faction seeking to secede by force of arms.

State news agency Saba quoted Zayani as saying on Saturday: "We, alongside President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, condemn foreign interference in Yemen from Iran and others."

Benomar, meanwhile, urged Yemenis to reach out to the southern groups and to "resolve legitimate demands."

"We insist that there is no choice but to achieve the success of the dialogue through... resolving the southern issue... and achieving national reconciliation," the UN envoy said.

After the former North and South Yemen united in 1990, the south broke away in 1994, triggering a civil war that ended with the region being overrun by northern troops.

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