Political Analysis

Audio leak links ex-Yemeni leader to Houthis

Phone intercepts show deposed President Saleh coordinating military and political moves with Shia fighters.

National Yemen

Saleh Protesters

Yemen’s deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was talking with Houthi rebels a month after the Shia group took control of capital Sanaa, according to leaked telephone conversations obtained by Al Jazeera.

In the audio recording, received by Al Jazeera on Wednesday, Saleh, a former president, is heard apparently coordinating military and political moves with Abdul Wahid Abu Ras, a Houthi leader.

The audio was reportedly recorded in October.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from London, Mohamed Qubaty, a former government adviser in Yemen, said that if the audio recordings are proven, it shows Saleh as “a master of mischief” in the country.

On Wednesday, Saleh called for early elections, arguing that early presidential and parliamentary polls would help defuse the current political crisis.

Separately, news broke that President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthis had reached an agreement under which the fighters would withdraw from areas overlooking the presidential palace and the private compound of the president.

The Houthis, who took over the presidential palace in Sanaa in Tuesday, have demanded that Hadi implement a power-sharing deal.

Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, leader of the Houthis, has accused Hadi of “failing the Yemeni people” and disrupting the implementation of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), which was approved after the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September.

In a televised speech just hours after his fighters’ display of force on Tuesday, Houthi warned Hadi that he had to implement the power-sharing deal.

“At this historic and exceptional point in time, when conspiracies have been plotted against the country, there is a great danger facing Yemen,” Houthi said.

“Nothing will ever stop us from realising the peace and cooperation treaty. We will not be scared by foreign powers, the issue is crucial.”

The Houthis are demanding security solutions and reforms to the national decision-making body, and they reject the draft constitution that divides Yemen into six federal regions.

Houthi fighters stood guard on Wednesday outside the private residence of Hadi, whose home in the city centre is normally protected by presidential security officers, witnesses said.

Entry posts were empty and there was no sign of the presidential guard at the compound, scene of clashes between Houthis and guards on Tuesday, the witnesses said.

Under house arrest

An official at the president’s residence told Al Jazeera that Hadi had not been harmed in the clashes overnight.

Hadi appeared to be under house arrest, the official said.

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However, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi politburo, told Reuters: “President Hadi is still in his home. There is no problem, he can leave.”

The Houthis appear to hold de facto power over the capital and most of the country after months of territorial gain that culminated in the capture of Sanaa last September.

However, the international community is standing by Hadi as the legitimate leader of the mainly Sunni Arabian Peninsula country.

Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, warned the Houthis to withdraw their siege of the Yemeni presidential palace.

Peter Salisbury, a Yemen analyst, said it remains unclear how the ultimatum will affect the position of Hadi.

Cristian Barros Melet, Chile’s permanent representative to the UN and currently UN Security Council president, urged all parties to commit to dialogue after a closed Security Council session on Tuesday.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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