U.N. Warns of Rising 'Sectarian Tensions' without Yemen Govt.

The U.N. envoy to Yemen urged political rivals in the restive Muslim state to form a new government within days to head off rising "sectarian tensions", in an interview with Agence France-Presse on Sunday.

Jamal Benomar called for a new lineup to be formed "within a few days", following weeks of clashes pitting Sunni tribes and al-Qaida against Shiite rebels seeking to expand their territory.

"Recent developments have brought on a new discourse that is xenophobic, sometimes sectarian, and this is a worrying trend," Benomar said.

"This didn't happen in the past ... The only way forward is for all sides to cooperate to establish a new government and to move forward the implementation of the peace partnership agreement," reached on September 21.

"Failure to pursue this would mean an increase in sectarian tensions" between Sunnis and Shiites in the country, he warned.

Chaos in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country was compounded when Ansarullah fighters seized Sanaa in September and later expanded their sphere of influence into central and west Yemen.

On Friday, Ansarullah increased pressure on President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi by giving him 10 days to form a new government or face the creation of a "national salvation council."

Apart from the October 13 appointment of Khalid Bahah as premier, the September 21 peace deal with the rebels has remained a dead letter.

Under the U.N.-sponsored accord, the Huthis were to withdraw from Sanaa and disarm once a neutral prime minister was named.

"This agreement provides a roadmap for getting out of this crisis," Benomar told AFP.

"If all parties, including Ansarullah, cooperate, implementation of the agreement will enable the state to regain its authority."

The Huthis easily overran Sanaa before moving on to Hudeida as well as Shiite-populated Dhamar and neighbouring Ibb, where clashes between Sunni tribesmen and Shiite rebels left dozens dead last month.

Source: Agence France Presse

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