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New unity government takes office in Yemen

December 10, 2011 |  1:38 pm

REPORTING FROM SANA, YEMEN, AND BEIRUT -- A unity government was sworn in to office in Yemen on Saturday, part of a power-transfer agreement signed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh last month after unrest pushed the country to the edge of civil war.

The 35-member Cabinet, headed by opposition Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwah, will oversee a transition period until elections, which are scheduled for February. Under the deal, Saleh is to relinquish his title in exchange for immunity from prosecution in the deaths of scores of protesters.

The agreement, endorsed by the United States and Persian Gulf nations, stipulates that government ministries be divided between Saleh’s ruling party and the opposition. Loyalists retained the ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs and Oil. The opposition will head the ministries of the Interior, Finance and Information.

Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur, who has been given temporary authority to run the government, presided over Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony and chaired the Cabinet’s first meeting, according to the state-run Saba news agency.

Mansur said the formation of the government was an expression of both sides’ desire to end the crisis. But thousands continue to take to the streets in the capital, Sana, and other cities to protest the arrangement and demand that Saleh and others be brought to justice.

As she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway on Saturday, Tawakul Karman, an icon of Yemen’s protest movement, said, "There should be no immunity for killers."

She lamented that Yemen’s revolt has not received the same international attention as other Arab Spring uprisings, saying, "This should haunt the world's conscience because it challenges the very idea of fairness and justice."


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--  Zaid al-Alayaa in Sana and Alexandra Zavis in Beirut

Photo: A Yemeni man paints revolutionary slogans on the back of an anti-government protester during a demonstration in Sana, Yemen, on Saturday at which protesters demanded the trial of outgoing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Credit: Yahya Arhab / EPA