Oct 7, 2014 12:32 PM

Yemen president names new prime minister

The Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen (AP) President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi appointed the head of his office as Yemen's new prime minister on Tuesday, the official news agency reported, marking a major step toward implementing a U.N.-brokered peace deal with Shiite rebels who control the capital.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak was selected after consultations with political parties, Saba news agency reported. The 46-year-old businessman-turned-political figure had successfully led an effort by various political parties including longtime rivals to devise a political map for transition after a 2011 uprising in the impoverished country on the Arabian Peninsula.

The appointment raises questions about whether the Shiite Houthi rebels will put down their arms and withdraw from the capital, Sanaa. The group made no formal announcement after bin Mubarak was appointed. But previously, senior Houthi rebels told The Associated Press that they objected to a choice of bin Mubarak because he was a close associate of the president and not seen as independent.

The Houthis seized Sanaa last month, after the military virtually collapsed following weeks of protests to demand a better share in power and a change in government. On Tuesday, armed Houthis were still deployed in the capital, manning government offices and patrolling the streets.

A U.N.-brokered deal, signed on the same day that the rebels seized Sanaa, ended fighting that left 140 people dead. It called for the formation of a government within a month to be headed by a technocrat.

One of the youngest politicians in Yemen, bin Mubarak emerged during the 2011 uprising in the country that forced longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in a U.S.-backed agreement. Saleh handed over to Hadi the next year.

Bin Mubarak has connections with Western countries and has represented Yemen at meetings of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a powerful regional group that includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar.

Despite the power transfer in 2012, Yemen continues to face unrest. The Houthis, who fought Saleh for years, have made recent advances against government troops backed by Sunni Islamist militias. Critics say the Houthis are doing the bidding of Shiite-ruled Iran, which is vying for regional influence with Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia Yemen's northern neighbor.

Political analyst Mansour Hayel said the new prime minister will have to focus on security before tackling Yemen's battered economy, and that will require support from neighbors and foreign powers.

"Neither the president nor the prime minister can rescue Yemen from death unless there is regional and international consensus," he said.

In addition to the Houthi rebels, an al-Qaida branch poses a constant threat in the south. The U.S. considers Yemen's al-Qaida branch to be the world's most dangerous and has helped support government offensives against the group with drone strikes.


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