Saudis Unswayed by Houthis’ Overture

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A Startling Announcement in Yemen

SANA, Yemen — Leaders of the Houthi rebels announced on Saturday that they had appointed four key ministers from the recently ousted government to a national security committee, part of their efforts to begin building institutions to replace those disbanded by their effective coup.

The appointments appeared to be aimed at reassuring Western countries and regional powers like Saudi Arabia that the militants could be inclusive and trustworthy, particularly in the fight against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But it remained unclear if the men had accepted the posts and if their announced participation was voluntary.

But if the move was meant to allay the fears of the Saudis, who have traditionally been major aid donors to Yemen, it did not seem to work.

Saudi Arabia and its allies in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council denounced the Houthis’ new governing plan on Saturday as a “coup” and called for the United Nations Security Council to bring it to an end, according to a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Islah, an important party of Sunni Islamists, also called the plan a coup and refused to take part, in a statement issued after the appointments to the security committee were made public.

The announcement, released Saturday through SABA, the Yemeni government news agency, said that the Houthis had issued a decree appointing 17 members to the Supreme Security Committee and that the chairman would be the previous minister of defense, Mahmoud Salem al-Subaihi. Mr. Subaihi and all other cabinet members had resigned on Jan. 22, along with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, after the Houthis put the president under virtual house arrest. The country has been without a functioning government and head of state since then.

The other former top officials appointed to the security committee were Jalal al-Rowaishan, who was interior minister; the former head of Yemen’s counterterrorism intelligence agency, Ali Hassan al-Ahmedi; and the previous head of the internal security agency, Khalid al-Sufi.

None of the four men could be reached to confirm that they had accepted the posts, though Mr. Subaihi and Mr. Rowaishan were seen Friday at the Houthis’ announcement of their plan for a new government.

The rebel’s Supreme Security Committee oversees national military and security policies. The appointments to it were announced less than 24 hours after the Houthis presented a unilateral plan to form a new government, announcing that they intended to dissolve Parliament and that a president would be chosen through a commission picked by the Houthis’ own revolutionary committees.

After the announcement Friday, the United Nations envoy here, Jamal Benomar, said he “deeply regrets the unilateral statement by the Houthis,” according to a statement released by the spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr. Benomar had been mediating discussions among the Houthis and Yemen’s many other parties in an effort to reach an agreement on forming a new government after Mr. Hadi and his government resigned. But those talks apparently collapsed Thursday. Mr. Benomar went to Saudi Arabia immediately afterward but returned here Saturday. The statement attributed to him said the talks had been making “serious progress” and encouraged their resumption.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, he said that the Security Council had met to discuss Yemen on Saturday and that he had briefed the Council by video link from Sana.

The Houthis are dominated by members of the Zaydi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, who are about a third of the population. Most other Yemenis are Sunni Muslims, and their parties and leaders have been critical of the Houthi takeover.

Although the rebels said the former defense minister, Mr. Subaihi, would be chairman of the 17-person security committee, most of its members are Houthis, including the man believed to be the rebels’ ranking military leader, Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim. The United Nations imposed sanctions on Mr. Hakim last year — along with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has become a Houthi ally — for his role in the Houthis’ takeover efforts.

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the movement’s leader, spoke by video link Saturday to the meeting of the rebels’ revolutionary committees in a stadium in Sana that was festooned with Yemeni flags rather than the Houthis’ traditional banners.

Mr. Houthi refrained from criticizing the United States or its drone strikes, as he always did in major speeches before the Houthi takeover in January. He said international and regional powers had nothing to fear from the government the Houthis had proposed.

Mr. Hadi’s government was a strong supporter of the United States and its role in fighting Al Qaeda here, particularly through drone strikes targeting the group’s fighters. Although they abhor those strikes, the Houthis are also bitter enemies of Al Qaeda — a Sunni militant group — and since effectively taking control last month, they have made no move to interfere with the drone program.

In his speech, Mr. Houthi also appealed several times for all of Yemen’s political parties to join with the Houthis in forming a government.

“Our hands are outstretched to you, and there’s still a chance to be included in the presidential commission and the national council,” he said.

Mr. Houthi’s speech was greeted by chants of the Houthi slogan, including “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.”

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