UN Security Council sanctions target Yemeni militants

The UN Security Council authorized sanctions against individuals and organizations, including an al-Qaeda branch, threatening stability in Yemen.

U.K.-led inititative doesn't name individuals; establishes committee to decide who should face sanctions

The UN Security Council has issued sanctions against those in Yemen hoping to disrupt the current government, which came to power after the Arab Spring in 2011. Here, pro-democracy demonstrators paint their faces with the colours of the Yemeni flag to mark the anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising. (REUTERS)

The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday authorizing sanctions against individuals and organizations threatening peace, security or stability in Yemen. 

The resolution does not name any individuals or entities that should face a freeze of their assets and a travel ban. Instead, it establishes a committee to decide who should face sanctions and to monitor their implementation, and a panel of experts to assist with investigations. 

Yemen has been struggling with a transition to democracy since Arab Spring protests in 2011 forced longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 33 years as president. A transitional government led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is trying to promote national reconciliation, but it remains fragile and continues to battle instability and al-Qaeda militants.

The British-drafted resolution states that the transition process "requires turning the page" from the presidency of Saleh, who has been accused of trying to undermine peace efforts and Hadi's government.

Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told the council after the vote that "those wishing to derail the political transition will face swift and firm consequences through the new sanctions committee."

Several Yemeni security officials said supporters of Saleh with links to the country's security and intelligence agencies have quietly backed al-Qaeda fighters to undermine the government. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The resolution condemns the growing number of attacks carried out or sponsored by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group's Yemen branch. 

Unlike most Arab Spring countries, Yemen embarked on a national dialogue to decide on a road map for a political transition. Months of talks ended on Jan. 25 with an agreement by all political parties, and Hadi pledged to follow up by establishing commissions to draft a constitution and work out details of a new federation for the country.  

The Security Council welcomed the success of the national dialogue — which U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power called "historic" — and gave strong backing to completion of all steps in the transition, culminating in national elections.

Yemen's UN ambassador, Jamal Abdullah Al-Sallal, called the dialogue "a wonderful model" in which many different parties placed the interest of nation "above any individual party or tribe toward consensus."

"Yemen wishes to remain a unique model, a successful one, not only in the region but in the entire world," he said. "We do not wish to return to square one, to confront violence and a slide toward civil war."