Yemen’s national unity government was sworn in in the capital, Sana’a, Saturday as part of a deal for the country’s embattled president to step down after nearly a year of anti-government protests that have killed hundreds.
The new 35-member Cabinet is headed by veteran opposition politician Mohammed Basindwa. The ministerial posts are equally divided between President Saleh’s party and the opposition with the aim of steering Yemen toward presidential elections scheduled for February. Saleh loyalists will run the ministries of defense, foreign affairs and oil, while the opposition will head the ministries of interior, finance and information.
During the ceremony, Vice President Abd al-Rabuh Mansur Hadi urged the Cabinet to forget their political differences and focus on major issues. The state-run SABA news agency quoted Mr. Hadi as saying the government’s first task was to create an “atmosphere” where reconciliation could take place.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the swearing in of Yemen’s new government. He urged all sides “to work toward the full implementation of an inclusive Yemeni-led transition process, giving all Yemenis a true stake in the country’s future.”
Yemen is also home to al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula and the new government is tasked with ridding Yemen of al-Qaida-linked militants who are attempting to gain a stronghold in the country’s south. Military officials said Saturday clashes in the southern Abyan province between government troops and suspected militants killed two soldiers and 11 militants.