- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

SANAA, Yemen (AP) - The United Nations envoy to Yemen said Friday that rival factions, including the country’s Shiite rebels, have agreed on a new legislative body to serve during the country’s upcoming transition period.

Jamal Benomar said that the various parties have taken an “important step” toward a political resolution to the current crisis by creating a new legislative body consisting of former and new lawmakers.

But a coalition of Yemeni parties voiced objections to the plan, describing it as an insufficient half-solution. Benomar says other issues, including the status of the presidency, remain on the table.

Yemen has been locked in a political crisis since Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, took over the capital in September. The rebels eventually forced the resignation of the elected Western-backed president and dissolved the parliament.

U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday said her government was monitoring the situation.

“We have seen these reports. We continue to support the special envoy’s efforts to work with the parties to find a solution to the political crisis. And we’re in regular contact with him and his team regarding the situation on the ground,” Psaki said. “We don’t have an analysis yet on what it means, because we haven’t seen implementation quite yet on it. And we are certainly clear-eyed, given the events of the last couple of weeks, of how that will be implemented or how it could be implemented, I should say.”

The political crisis cast also doubts on the United States’ ability to continue its counter-terrorism operations, especially with loss of a strong U.S. ally in President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been held under house arrest by the Houthis since last month.

However, the U.S. has continued to target al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, with drone strikes.

On Friday, tribal sources said that two suspected al-Qaida members were killed in a drone strike in the southern province of Shabwa. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

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