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Yemen's Houthi group endorse new government: presidential aide

Yemen's newly appointed Prime Minister Khaled Bahah listens to a reporter's questions at a news conference after his cabinet was sworn-in at the Presidential Palace in Sanaa November 9, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

SANAA (Reuters) - The Shi’ite Muslim Houthi group has endorsed the new Yemeni government despite opposition to some ministers, a presidential aide said on Thursday, in a move that could allow Prime Minister Khaled Bahah to focus on restoring state control over the country.

Yemen has been in turmoil since Houthi fighters captured the capital Sanaa in September and forced the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa to resign. The Houthi expansion south and west of the capital has led to clashes with Sunni tribesmen allied to al Qaeda, with scores of casualties on both sides.

The political bureau of the Houthis Ansarullah group has criticized the 36-member cabinet announced last week by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as “disappointing”, and said some ministers did not meet the requirements stipulated by the power-sharing agreement signed after the capture of Sanaa.

But Saleh al-Samad, a member of the Houthi group appointed by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as a political advisor in September, on Thursday praised Bahah and welcomed the new cabinet while maintaining reservations about some ministers.

“I commend the strength, bravery and prowess of the brother, the prime minister and the capable ministers who are shouldering the responsibility at this sensitive period,” Samad wrote on his Facebook page.

Apart from the emboldened Houthis, Yemen has been grappling with other problems since 2011 pro-democracy protests forced long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. The United States has launched drone strikes against al-Qaeda militants in the country.

Stability in the country of 25 million people is important to the West because it borders oil-producing Saudi Arabia and is home to one of the most active branches of al Qaeda.

Under the Sept. 21 power sharing deal, the Houthis are expected to withdraw their forces from the capital Sanaa.

But apart from dismantling protest tents they had set up on the outskirts of the capital, there are no signs that the Houthis are preparing to withdraw from Sanaa.

Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari, Writing by Sami Aboudi,; Editing by Ralph Boulton