Yemeni officials reach peace deal with rebels

Yemen officials, rebels reach peace deal in Qatar

SANAA | Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:06am EDT

SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen’s government and northern rebels have agreed to bolster a fragile truce and start political dialogue to end a civil war that has raged on and off since 2004.

The deal was signed in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where Yemeni officials and rebels have been in talks since Tuesday, members of both delegations said on Friday.

Successful implementation of the deal would be a huge relief to the government, which is struggling to curb a rising southern separatist movement and a resurgent al Qaeda wing that has increasingly targeted the state in recent months.

The Qatar-mediated deal, signed late on Thursday, calls for “a final close to the war and the start of political dialogue.”

Yemeni delegations hammered out a 22-point agreement that would guide both sides to meeting obligations under a February truce which had been punctuated with violence from both sides.

Qatar, trying to bolster its image as a regional Gulf Arab peacemaker, brokered a north Yemen peace accord in 2008 before the region slipped back into war and last year drew in top oil exporter and regional power Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has faced increasing pressure from Saudi Arabia and Western powers to resolve domestic conflicts in order to focus on al Qaeda, which they fear will use instability in the Arabian Peninsula state to launch attacks regionally and beyond.

Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on a U.S.-bound plane in December and has carried out attacks on Saudi, British, and Yemeni targets.

News of the agreement coincided with reports that gunmen had kidnapped Yemen’s deputy head of intelligence, Ali al Hosam, in the northern city of Saada.

A local official said authorities were investigating the incident and had no information yet as to who was behind the kidnapping.

The war between the state and Shi’ite rebels, who complain of religious and economic discrimination, has displaced 350,000 people. Despite the truce, sporadic clashes in the north, particularly between rebels and pro-government tribes, have killed dozens of people.

Among the main points of the agreement, rebels were required to return stolen Yemeni military weapons to their Qatari mediator, while the government would release rebel prisoners — a main rebel demand before the talks.

Other points called for the removal of landmines throughout the region, a guarantee of safe passage from both sides allowing displaced people to return home, and the release of any schools, government buildings, or homes that had been seized. (Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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