U.N. peace plan for Yemen seems to sideline exiled president

October 27, 2016 7:09 AM EDT

Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi salutes during a visit to the country's northern province of Marib July 10, 2016. REUTERS/Ali Owidha - RTSH5MX


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By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - A U.N. peace proposal to end a 19-month war in Yemen appears aimed at sidelining exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and setting up a government of less divisive figures, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

Hadi fled the armed advance of the Iranian-allied Houthi movement in March 2015 and has been a guest of neighboring Saudi Arabia ever since.

A U.N. Security Council resolution a month later recognized him as the legitimate head of state and called on the Houthis to disarm and quit Yemen's main cities.

But the Houthis and their allies in Yemen's army have said he will never return, accusing him and his powerful vice president, Ali Mushin al-Ahmar, of corruption.

The latest peace plan submitted by U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed suggests Ahmar would step down and Hadi would agree to become little more than a figurehead after a Houthi withdrawal from the capital Sanaa.

It was not immediately clear if the men had been consulted on the plan. But their supporters have in the past insisted that past agreements recognizing Hadi as leader must be respected.

"As part of the signing of a complete and comprehensive agreement, the current Vice President will resign and President Hadi will appoint a new Vice President," the document says.

"After the completion of the withdrawal from Sanaa and the handing over of heavy and medium weapons (including ballistic missiles) Hadi will transfer all his powers to a Vice President, and the Vice President will appoint a new Prime Minister ... (who will form) a national unity government," it added.

SYMBOLIC ROLE

The proposal would technically confirm Hadi in office, as stipulated by the U.N. resolution, but leave him in reality with only a symbolic role.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr said that the government had not received a draft of the peace proposal from the United Nations, according to state news agency Sabanew.

Government officials have said they are unwilling to legitimize what they see as a Houthi "coup".

"We emphasize our conviction that all proposals are doomed to failure if (they don’t reject the) excesses of the coup, which is the mother of all these calamities and the root of the evils," Abdullah al-Alimi, a senior official in Hadi's office, wrote on Twitter.

A U.S. State Department official said Washington continued to support the U.N. envoy's peace efforts. "We have long maintained that compromises and concessions by all sides are necessary to reach a political settlement," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate comment from the United Nations, or from Saudi Arabia, which backs Hadi and is leading a military coalition, including the United Arab Emirates, trying to dislodge the Houthis.

But UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash expressed his support for the U.N. plan on Thursday, saying on Twitter that "alternate options are dark".

"The road map represents a political solution to the crisis of Yemen. ... It is time to leave behind the logic of arms and violence among Yemenis, and the road map gives a chance for reason and dialogue to prevail," he wrote.

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has killed at least 10,000 people and unleashed one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Washington; Writing By Noah Browning; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Jonathan Oatis)



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