Yemen president hands over power in major shake-up

Yemen’s president has sacked his deputy and transferred power to a leadership council in a major shake-up of the Saudi-backed coalition fighting Houthi rebels in the country’s civil war.

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi announced that the eight-member council would be led by former minister, Rashad al-Alimi.

He tasked it with negotiating with the Houthis to agree on a permanent ceasefire and a political solution to the war.

The move comes five days after the start of a two-month nationwide truce.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in 2015when the Iran-aligned Houthis seized control of large parts of the west of the country.

Mr Hadi fled abroad, and a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states intervened to restore his rule. However, seven years of military stalemate have followed.

The fighting has reportedly left more than 150,000 people dead and triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with more than 23 million people – three quarters of the population – in need of some form of aid.

“I irreversibly delegate to the Presidential Leadership Council my full powers in accordance with the constitution and the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism,” Mr Hadi announced in a statement in the early hours of Thursday.

He said the council would manage Yemen’s political, military and security affairs during what he called the “transitional period”. It would also “negotiate with the Houthis to reach a ceasefire all over Yemen and sit at the negotiating table to reach a final political solution”, he added.

The council will be chaired by Mr Alimi, an adviser to Mr Hadi and former interior minister who reportedly has close ties with Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s powerful Sunni Islamist Islah party.

The other seven members include Aidrous al-Zubaidi, head of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), which wants an independent South Yemen; Tareq Saleh, a military commander and nephew of late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh; and Sheikh Sultan al-Arada, the governor of the oil-rich province of Marib, a key battleground in the conflict. -BBC

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