AP News

Yemen backers name groups for possible sanctions

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Diplomats from several nations backing Yemen's political transition are recommending international sanctions against loyalists of the former president, southern secessionists and members of the largest Islamist group for undermining the country's path to democracy, a foreign diplomat familiar with discussions said Thursday.

It was the first time countries supporting an initiative laid out by Gulf nations specified who they hold responsible for obstructing a transition toward democracy in Yemen. The initiative, designed to ease out longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, replaced him in February with President Abded Rabbo Mansour Hadi after a year of protests and violence.

Hadi and Yemen's opposition say the former president was hindering the transition, which envisions the writing of a constitution in late 2013 and general elections by early 2014. Critics said Saleh and his loyalists have used their entrenched powers to undercut Hadi's authority and hinder an essential security restructuring program. This prompted a U.N. resolution that backed Hadi and threatened non-military sanctions against those who undermine the country's stability.

The recommendation, decided at Thursday's meeting of the ambassadors of the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members plus five Gulf Arab nations, was the first time specific categories were named for potential sanctions. It was also the first time southern secessionists and members of the al-Islah party, the country's largest Islamist group, were identified as potential targets for such sanctions.

The party is represented in the transitional post-Saleh government.

The diplomat, who agreed to discuss details of the meeting on condition his name be withheld, said the ambassadors are recommending that their countries gather evidence against specific individuals which they hold responsible for undermining the democratic transition.

The sanctions could include freezing financial assets or travel bans. The diplomat also said that more names could be added to the list following investigations into recent violence in Yemen.

The push for sanctions indicates a growing frustration over the sluggishness of the transition, obstruction by Saleh and his loyalists and the spread of violence.

Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, considered the most active in the world, has taken advantage of the political turmoil to expand its operations and seize territory. Hadi has been battling with the group since he took office, assisted by Washington, but many worry some of his opponents may support the group.

Attacks against security forces in Yemen have been on the rise, with six assassination attempts made on the defense minister.

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