Yemen’s reconciliation talks, which have stumbled over the future form of the state, could be delayed for up to three months, the foreign minister said.
The national dialogue, which was due to end on September 18, could be delayed by “one, two or three months, but not more”, the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat newspaper quoted Abubaker Al Qirbi as saying.
The southern question has been a major stumbling block for the talks launched in March, with hardline factions of the Southern Movement demanding secession and boycotting the negotiations.
The dialogue is aimed at drawing up a new constitution for Yemen and preparing for elections in February.
After the former North and South Yemen united in 1990, the south broke away in 1994, triggering a brief civil war that ended with the region being overrun by northern troops.
Mr Al Qirbi criticised “the very negative attitude” of former South Yemen’s exiled hardline president, Ali Salem Al Baid, accusing him of receiving backing from Iran and Lebanon’s Shiite Hizbollah movement to boycott the talks.
“He lives in Beirut under Hizbollah’s protection,” said Mr Al Qirbi.
A statement from the United Nations Security Council has accused Mr Al Baid of impeding Yemen’s political transition, which is sponsored by the UN and was mediated by Saudi Arabia.
In addition to the dialogue, the country is also facing an Al Qaeda threat “which is still present [in Yemen] and presents a danger, even though security services have succeeded in weakening it,” said Mr Al Qirbi.
“Unfortunately, the ransoms that were paid to release hostages seized by the network have provided it with the money needed to renew its activity,” he said in Al Hayat.
In June last year, the army recaptured large swathes of southern Yemen that Al Qaeda had held for nearly a year.
Since then, the extremist group has launched mainly hit-and-run attacks, with its members under the constant threat of monitoring and missile attack from United States drone aircraft.
The network has captured several foreigners, including diplomats it is still holding.
Mr Al Qirbi reiterated that drone “strikes targeting terrorist militants in Yemen are carried out in coordination with the defence ministry, security services, and the United States, with Yemeni consent.”
* Agence France-Presse