UN Envoy Meets Southern Yemen Leaders Before Dialogue

(AFP) - UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar met on Saturday those leaders from the separatist Southern Movement who aim to join in a national dialogue this month to end the country's political crisis, participants said.

Among those at the meeting in Dubai were representatives of secessionist Ali Salem al-Baid, who later withdrew after handing over their list of demands.

The exiled Baid was president of South Yemen, which broke away in 1994, sparking a civil war, before it was overrun by northern troops. He demands full independence for the south, while other factions merely want autonomy.

"Most participants are in favour of taking part in the national dialogue," which is scheduled for March 18, said southern delegate Jihad Abbas.

"Most are also for federalism and against the use of violence."

Some figures of the former South Yemen were present in Dubai, such as former president Ali Nasser Mohammed, and former premier Abdel Rahman al-Jifri.

But another leader, Hassan Baum, was absent because he had no visa.

The southern question is part of the agenda of the national dialogue, which was originally scheduled for mid-November. It aims to draft a new constitution and prepare for elections in February 2014 after a two-year transition following the departure of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh stepped down last year following massive street protests.


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