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YEMEN: Peace agreement with northern rebels in jeopardy?

SANAA, 22 August 2007 (IRIN) - A committee appointed by the Qatari government to supervise the peace agreement between government forces and followers of rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi left Yemen on 17 August for a second time, sparking fears that clashes might resume in Saada Governorate, northern Yemen, observers say.

Officials at the Yemeni Presidential Committee - formed to supervise the ceasefire agreement on behalf of the Yemeni government - accused al-Houthi of not abiding by the peace agreement, and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has threatened to resort to military means if al-Houthi breaks it. He accused the rebel leader of procrastination in implementing the peace agreement.

On 19 August al-Houthi issued a statement saying he was committed to implementing the peace agreement, and accused the government of breaching it.

Earlier, on 12 August, the [Yemeni] presidential and Qatari committees had set a timetable for implementing the ceasefire over a 20-day period. However, local sources say there are still sporadic clashes between followers of al-Houthi and government forces.

A peace agreement was signed between the rebels and government forces in mid-June. According to the 10-point agreement, rebels were to withdraw from all their previous positions, and hand in their weapons to the authorities. The government, in return, would carry out reconstruction work in war-affected areas.

Aid efforts

Aid agencies have sent aid to displaced families that have not been able to return home. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in cooperation with the Yemeni Red Crescent Society, has assisted 37,100 displaced people over the past few months, according to the ICRC.

The aid included groundsheets, jerry cans, mattresses, blankets and washing supplies, in addition to the provision of medical treatment in health facilities.

The displaced families are staying in safe areas in and around the city of Saada. Many live with host families. Other displaced families have fled to areas close to the border with Saudi Arabia.

On 16 August the UN World Food Programme (WFP) approved a new operation, worth US$1.3 million, to provide food assistance to 36,000 displaced people in Saada Governorate. The agency said the three-month operation would complement efforts it started two months ago.

Some 20,000 people in Saada Governorate received assistance between June and July, the agency added.

"Our assessment of the humanitarian situation indicated that food assistance must continue. However, it is hoped that during this period a durable ceasefire agreement and a political solution to the crisis will be reached and maintained. This would enable the displaced to return to their homes and resume their regular livelihood activities," said Mohamed al-Kouhene, a WFP representative in Yemen.

According to WFP, the number of persons to receive food assistance under the new operation has increased by 16,000 due to the improved security conditions, allowing better access to the needy in more remote areas of the governorate.

About 56,000 people have been displaced in Saada Governorate since clashes between rebels and government forces flared up again early this year, according to aid agencies. Several people were killed and others injured on both sides.

Saleh al-Sayyaghi, an official at Saada local council, told IRIN that the plight of displaced families was improving: "The displaced families, who have begun to return home, live in stabilised conditions," he said, adding that efforts are constantly being made to help other families return home.




Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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