SANAA, Yemen — Yemen's president on Wednesday warned armed Shiite rebels leading mass protests in the country's capital that the United States and other world powers oppose the "rebellion" and the show of force by the group.
The official SABA news agency quoted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as saying that that "the tribal armed masses ... imposed a status quo that is rejected by people, politically, nationally, regionally and internationally."
He added that he received phone calls from officials in the United States, the U.N. Security Council and a number of Arab capitals who all expressed their opposition to "any rebellion against national consensus."
His remarks came as Hawthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Hawthi vowed to continue the demonstrations until his demands are met. The protesters want Yemen's government to step down and for fuel subsidies to be restored.
"We have no (power) ambitions and we will not part of the new cabinet line-up," the leader said. "We demand the downfall of your government and replacing it with a candid one of technocrats."
Tens of thousands of Hawthi supporters have been rallying in the capital for a second week, setting up tents near ministries and sending armed men to take positions on rooftops. The moves alarmed security authorities and prompted Hadi to order deployment of special forces to the capital.
Mediation efforts fell apart after Hadi sent a delegation to the group's stronghold in the northern city of Sadaa where the group presented a new set of demands in return for ending its protests.
The Hawthis waged a six-year insurgency in the north against former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh that officially ended in 2010. After Saleh's ouster, they have fought ultraconservative Islamists in several northern cities and towns, accusing them of turning their strongholds into incubators of extremism. Over the past weeks, they've battled and defeated the Muslim Brotherhood group and its political arm, the Islah party.
The tension over the government has been simmering for months even before lifting the subsidies. Critics alleged that Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Bassindwa is too weak and too close to the Islah party. Critics also blame Bassindwa for deteriorating security and the economic conditions.