Jason DeCrow, File / AP

Yemen’s president, government step down amid showdown with rebels

Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah quit as Houthi rebels consolidate grip on capital

Yemen’s President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi resigned along with the country’s government Thursday, just a day after he and Houthi rebels fighting him announced an agreement aimed at ending the political crisis gripping the country.

Prime Minister Khaled Bahah offered the entire government's resignation to Hadi, saying he did not want to be dragged into "an unconstructive political maze” — an apparent reference to the standoff between the president and Houthis who had seized much of the capital Sanaa.

Shortly after the announcement, the president followed suit and offered to step down, according to officials.

The now outgoing government was formed in November as part of a United Nations-brokered peace deal after Houthis overran the capital in September.

Bahah posted his resignation on his official Facebook page, saying he had held office under "very complicated circumstances." The prime minister wrote that he resigned in order to "avoid being dragged into an abyss of unconstructive policies based on no law."

"We don't want to be a party to what is happening or will happen," he added.

The news came on the same day that UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, met with both Hadi and Houthi leaders in efforts to implement an agreement the two sides had earlier reached to resolve the crisis.

The rebels had agreed on Wednesday to withdraw from areas overlooking the presidential palace and the private compound of Hadi, after receiving assurances of constitutional change and power sharing.

Although the Houthis had welcomed the proposed concessions by the government, their fighters still held positions outside the residence of Hadi on Thursday.

Marib clashes

Earlier, clashes erupted in central Yemen, with local tribesmen saying they were pushing back Shia Muslim Houthi clans trying to capture an army base in Marib province, a tribal leader said.

"The Houthis came with many fighters with the aim of storming the base of the 7th Brigade and tribesmen are fighting them back," Sheikh Hamad bin Waheet, the tribal leader, told the Reuters news agency.

Marib province, which is home to a significant portion of Yemen's oil fields and other energy infrastructure, has been a flashpoint in recent months as the Houthis expanded their influence across the country, taking Sanaa and becoming de facto national powerbrokers. 

Half of Yemen's oil and more than half of its electricity are produced in Marib, which is also where the main gas fields are located. Its chief export pipeline carries around 70,000-110,000 barrels per day of Marib light crude to the Red Sea.

Tribal leader Waheet said local tribes had agreed with Marib's governor and the head of the army to protect the province from Houthis or other aggressors.

"Armed tribesmen from Bayda province and al-Jawf are also coming and we'll defend Marib," he said. 

The Houthis want to replace the governor, who they say is too close to neighboring Sunni Saudi Arabia and to General Ali Mohsen, a Sunni Islamist-leaning general. 

They also want army units to be sent in to protect vital installations there, Houthi official Ali al-Imad told Reuters.

The Houthis seized large parts of Sanaa in September and have since pressed demands for constitutional reforms and an end to corruption in government.

In a separate incident that has triggered further controversy, leaked phone conversations received by Al Jazeera suggest Yemen's ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was talking with Houthi rebels a month after they took control of the capital.

In the audio recording, received on Wednesday, Saleh is heard apparently coordinating military and political moves with Abdul Wahid Abu Ras, a Houthi leader.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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