A group of Gulf countries denounced the Shiite rebel takeover of Yemen as a "coup" today, calling for the United Nations to take action as thousands demonstrated in the streets against their power grab. The rebels, known as Houthis, have taken over state institutions, dissolved parliament, and installed a new committee to govern the Mideast's poorest country—which is also home to what Washington considers al-Qaeda's most dangerous franchise. The six Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, issued a statement today carried by the official Saudi Press Agency calling for the UN Security Council to "put an end to this coup."
"The Cooperation Council sees Houthi coup as an escalation that cannot be accepted under any circumstances," the council said. The council serves as a counterbalance to regional Shiite power Iran, which the council previously has accused of meddling in their internal affairs. In a defiant speech today, rebel leader Abdel-Malak al-Houthi said his group's takeover of the government was necessary. "The constitutional declaration ... came to end the vacuum," he said. "It's all in the interest of the people, and for the people, and for facing these threats and conspiracies against the people." Also today, thousands protested in Sanaa, as well as the cities of Hodeida, Ibb, and Taiz; meanwhile, thousands rallied in support of the Houthis at a sports stadium in Sanaa.