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GCC chief expected in Aden to meet with Yemen's Hadi

Visit comes as Houthis seize key army base in capital, seen as a ‘disaster’ for Hadi
Hadi with the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani in 2012 (AFP)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) secretary-general will today hold meetings with President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, aimed at stabilising the political situation in Yemen.

According to the reports by the Anadolu Agency, Abdul-Latif al-Zayani will land in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday, with talks expected to take place at Aden’s presidential palace. Al-Jazeera, however, said that the visit had not yet been officially confirmed and might take place tomorrow instead.

The visit will be the highest-level meet from a foreign dignitary since Hadi managed to flee Sanaa over the weekend. He had been under effective house arrest in the capital since late January when Houthi militias stormed the presidential palace and forced Hadi to resign – a move dubbed a “coup” by the GCC.

Since arriving in Aden, however, Hadi has retracted his resignation and on Tuesday said that he continued to be Yemen's "legitimate" leader. He has also called on the UN to relocate peace talks to Aden, although there has so far been no indication that the Houthis are prepared to back such a move.

Houthi militiamen on Wednesday prevented Abdullah Noaman, the secretary-general of the Nasserist Unionist People's Organisation party, from travelling to Aden and prevented him boarding a plane south, the party said on its website.

"One of the Houthi youths I spoke with said there were strict instructions to prevent me from leaving for Aden and that the same instruction applied to any party leader," Noaman said in a statement.

"This procedure aims at preventing us from meeting the constitutionally legitimate president [Hadi] which the Houthis consider as a crime."

The move came hours after dozens of Houthi militants besieged the private residence of Mohamed Qahtan, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islah party in Sanaa. He had been detained earlier in the day after he was allegedly caught trying to head south, a party source told Anadolu Agency.

On Tuesday, another al-Islah leader, Industry and Commerce Minister Mohamed al-Saadi, was also reportedly prevented from flying to Aden and briefly detained.

The Houthis first stormed the capital in September last year. While a UN-backed deal, which saw Hadi backtrack on promised economic reforms and fire his prime minister, was penned, tensions have remained high and Houthi militias have continued to expand their influence.

The Houthis are a Shiite minority that makes up about a third of Yemen’s population and has traditionally been relatively disenfranchised. However, since last year they have managed to reach out far beyond their traditional base in the north east. They now control the capital and have made inroads into the oil-rich west.  

Overnight on Wednesday they also managed to seize a key military camp in the capital.

"The Houthis' seizure of the Special Forces training camp is a disaster," an official, requesting anonymity, told AA.

He said that violent clashes had broken out after the Houthis stormed the camp late on Tuesday night with heavy weapons.

The violence left an unspecified number of casualties from both sides, the official said.

The source added that the Houthis had seized "advanced" weapons from the camp which are used by the troops in counterterrorism operations, the official said.

The Houthis have long been known to receive direct support from Iran, but the UN on Tuesday also accused the Houthis of being strongly supported by Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The damning report, compiled by four experts, outlines how Saleh backed the Houthis as they pushed toward the capital in order to “seek revenge” against those who helped topple him in 2011, sources told the UN investigators.

Saleh stepped down at the end of 2011 following months of often deadly protests against his 33-year rule that broke out on the back of the Arab Spring.

The former strongman was given immunity in exchange for stepping down, but many have accused him and his son of continuing to pull strings in Yemen and wielding influence in the army.

According to the UN, Saleh is estimated to have personal assets worth $32-60bn, accumulated over decades spent defrauding the impoverished country’s coffers. If the top figure proves true, Saleh would be regarded as the world’s fifth richest man in the Forbes Magazine rich list, above Oracle CEO and founder Larry Ellison who has an estimated worth of $54.1bn and just below Spanish retail mogul and Zara founder Amancio Ortega, who has an estimated worth of $67bn. 

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