Yemen's president warns southern secessionists not to disrupt country's 'unity'
Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi [AFP]

emeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi warned Friday against any attempt to undermine his country's unity, after southern secessionists pulled out of a national dialogue with the central government.

"I will not allow anyone to haggle over the issue of the south of Yemen's unity," Hadi said in a speech marking the 46th anniversary of the independence of South Yemen from British occupation.

South and North Yemen united in 1990.

The contentious southern question has been a stumbling block for the national dialogue, in which moderate members of the Southern Movement have been demanding greater autonomy.

The dialogue is part of a transitional process stipulated by a UN-backed initiative, brokered by neighbouring Gulf countries, which ended a year of Arab Spring-inspired protests and eased Saleh out of office in 2012 after 33 years in power

The talks, which opened in March and were originally due to close on September 18, accepted the principle of a federal state, but Hadi, who took over from Saleh, and northern delegates suggested it should comprise several entities.

Southern secessionists are demanding a federal state made up of a north and south only.

Hadi's latest remarks come after a secessionist group headed by southern leader Mohamed Ali Ahmed pulled out of the national dialogue earlier this week.

"Yemen's unity will continue to be a sacred value," said Hadi, adding that secessionists lived in a world of "illusions".

Secessionists have called for a rally on Saturday in Aden, the main southern town, to press their demands for autonomy.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]