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U.N. envoy urges action on Yemen, Security Council to draft resolution

United Nations' Yemen envoy Jamal Benomar addresses a news conference on a proposal to turn the country into a federation of semi-autonomous
United Nations' Yemen envoy Jamal Benomar addresses a news conference on a proposal to turn the country into a federation of semi-autonomous

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations' envoy on Yemen urged the Security Council on Tuesday to "do its part" in helping stop those attempting to obstruct the Yemeni transition, which diplomats said was a call for possible sanctions against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Jordan's U.N. ambassador and president of the Security Council this month, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, told reporters that the council would start "drafting a resolution in the coming days which will support the wishes and aspirations of the government and people of Yemen."

"Council members also expressed their readiness to look into taking measures against any side that attempts to place obstacles to subvert," stability in Yemen, Prince Zeid told reporters.

Yemen, in turmoil since a popular uprising ousted Saleh in 2011, is also struggling against southern secessionists and an economic crisis.

"Undoubtedly there is real progress in the transition and the beginnings of a new political culture in Yemen, yet the situation remains fragile," Jamal Benomar, special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general on Yemen, told reporters after briefing the 15-nation council.

Benomar referred to a November 27 statement by the Security Council that said elements of the former government continue to "obstruct, frustrate and undermine the course of change, aiming to set back and bring down the transition."

"I told the council that the Yemeni people are doing their part and they are counting on this council to do its part," he said. Several diplomats said Benomar was encouraging the council to consider sanctions on Saleh and other individuals believed to be obstructing the transition.

Several diplomatic sources present at the closed-door meeting said it appeared all council members were ready to begin work on setting up a new U.N. sanctions regime for Yemen.

"There's a consensus that something needs to be done," one diplomatic source told Reuters.

The council has previously expressed concern over reports of interference by Saleh and former vice president Ali Salim Al-Beidh.

Under the U.S.-backed power transfer deal, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is overseeing reforms for an interim period to ensure a transition to democracy. New elections were expected this year.

Saleh stepped down in February 2012 after 33 years in office as part of the power-transfer deal, but he remains influential. His continuing sway in Yemen worries Gulf neighbors and Western nations fearful that the transition could descend into chaos.

In November Benomar accused members of Saleh's circle of obstructing reconciliation talks aimed at completing the power transfer deal, and called for international support for the current administration.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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