Southern Yemen leader sees independence referendum, parliament body

2017 10 14T075531Z 1 LYNXMPED9D04S RTROPTP 0 YEMEN SECURITY 1 - Southern Yemen leader sees independence referendum, parliament body
File Photo – Dismissed governor of the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, Aidaroos al-Zubaidi (R), waves to supporters of the separatist Southern Movement as they demonstrated against recent decisions by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi that sacked senior officials supported by the United Arab Emirates, including al-Zubaidi in Aden, Yemen May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman

October 14, 2017

ADEN (Reuters) – A rebel former governor of Aden who is leading a movement for southern Yemen’s secession has said an independence referendum would be announced soon and a parliamentary body set up to administer the territory.

Aidaroos al-Zubaidi, who was sacked as Aden governor by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, set out his secessionist plans to thousands of supporters gathered on Saturday in Yemen’s main southern city to mark 54 years since the October 1963 uprising against the British.

Zubaidi, who has previously declared a council that seeks secession for southern Yemen, said in a television interview late on Friday that an independence referendum would be held soon.

Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Zubaidi said a new 303-member parliamentary body, the National Association, would act like a small parliament to represent Yemenis from all areas of the south.

Zubaidi announced in May a new council formed by senior tribal, military and political figures. The council seeks the secession of southern Yemen and is looking to establish a political leadership under his presidency that would administer the south.

The move threatens more turmoil in the impoverished Arabian Peninsular country where the internationally-recognized government is forced to sit in Aden because Houthi rebels control the capital Sanaa.

The council was born out of a power struggle between the southerners and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi that has undermined regional power Saudi Arabia’s efforts to coordinate a military campaign against the Tehran-supported Houthis.

Hadi’s government has rejected the formation of the council, saying it would deepen divisions and play into the hands of the Houthi rebels.

Many southerners feel that officials in the north have exploited their resources and cut them off from jobs and influence.

(Reporting by Muhammed Mukhashaf; Writing By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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