A Yemeni committee tasked with demilitarizing the capital has given 48 hours to armed opponents and backers of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh to begin withdrawing after months of street fighting, state news agency Saba said on Wednesday, January 10.
The presence of armed elements in Sanaa, defying an earlier deadline to leave their positions by the end of December, underlines the difficulty of restoring normality to the country, which was paralyzed for most of 2011 by protests against Saleh.
Tribal fighters led by Saleh’s opponents and Republican Guard troops commanded by the veteran leader’s son are still deployed in several areas of Sanaa, including the northern district of Hasaba, scene of some of the heaviest fighting.
The 48 hours begin on Thursday morning, Saba said. It was unclear if the new deadline would prove more effective than the last. The body has no forces to ensure the deadline is met, but a government source said the panel would ask the international community to put pressure on any side that refused to withdraw.
The committee said it would also begin re-opening roads blocked off by rival forces during the unrest, warning it would “hold accountable” anyone who tried to hinder the process, without elaborating.
Under a plan drawn up by Yemen’s wealthier neighbors and signed by Saleh in November, the opposition and the ruling General People’s Congress party (GPC) shared out cabinet posts between them, forming a unity government to steer the country towards presidential elections in February, Reuters reported.