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Saleh's son's statement of support for vice-president Haleh 'a stunt'

General's backing for Hadi is pragmatic way to give him room for manoeuvre and escape accountability, analysts say

A pro-government supporter holds a poster depicting Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a rally outside the US Embassy in Sana'a. Wadia Mohammed / EPA
A pro-government supporter holds a poster depicting Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a rally outside the US Embassy in Sana'a. Wadia Mohammed / EPA

SANA'A // Brigadier Gen Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh's statement that his forces were committed to following the orders of the acting president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, is being seen by analysts and officials as a practical, self-serving move aimed to appease Yemenis as well as the international community.

In his first statement since his father, President Ali Adbullah Saleh, went to Saudi Arabia on June 4 for medical treatment for wounds sustained in a bomb attack on the presidential mosque, General Ahmed Saleh was quoted on the defence ministry website as saying the forces he commanded would "continue to carry out the tasks assigned to them in confronting any hostile or sabotage activities that target the security and stability of the country, the peace of the citizens and their lives or the state and its institutions".

Abdulbaki Shamsan, a professor of political sociology at Sana'a University, said yesterday: "His [Ahmed Saleh] statement demonstrates a pragmatic dealing with the ongoing situation. He will not lose anything by making such a statement for this will not affect his force on the ground. It rather gives him a room to manoeuvre and ease some of the pressure on him."

Mr Shamsan said if Mr Saleh did not return to power, the general wanted to ensure that he and other family members were given immunity from prosecution as well as guarantees that their assets would not be frozen.

"He has got a force that can be marginalised only if the opposition along with the defected military resort to violence to force him and his relatives out of power but there will be grave consequences for such an exercise," Mr Shamsan said.

"The regional and international community are working hard to avoid this scenario and this statement falls in line with these efforts," he added.

General Saleh's statement came after the opposition said General Saleh and his relatives, who are running key security and military services, were usurping power by not allowing Mr Hadi to carry out his job and exercise constitutional authority.

Khalid Al Anisi, a leading activist in the youth-led revolution, said General Saleh's statement was nothing more than publicity stunt. "This statement is meant to publicise Ahmed but at the same time, he would like to escape from any accountability and put Hadi in the front line," Mr Al Anisi said. "The republican guards are launching hostilities in some parts of the country and this makes Mr Hadi the first person responsible for these hostilities against the tribes."

Ahmed Al Sufi, an aide to Mr Saleh, said on Sunday that Mr Saleh was expected to make a video appearance within 48 hours. However, Abdu Al Janadi, the deputy information minister, said this was just "well-wishing".

Tens of thousands took to the streets yesterday in the provinces of Sa'ada, al Baidha, Dhale and other cities to demand the departure of the Saleh family and the establishment of a transitional council to govern the country.

Since Mr Saleh's departure to Saudi Arabia, there have been almost daily protests demanding the establishment of a transitional governing council.

And with the visit of a mission by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate possible human-rights abuses during months of protests, youth movement groups have called for a demonstration today at the UN office in Sana'a. The Justice Marches were meant to demand the prosecution of Mr Saleh and the rest of his regime and the freezing of their assets as well as calling for a transparent investigation into the crimes against protesters, said Mr Al Anisi.

Meanwhile, the Yemen military said yesterday that five Al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in confrontations with the army in Dufas valley in the southern province of Abyan.

A military official said seven soldiers were wounded, adding the attacks launched by the army backed by aircraft during the past few days had incurred heavy loss on the militants, the state Saba news agency reported. It added that the military foiled a plot of attack on economic installations in the port city of Aden.