x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

US presses Yemen's Saleh to accept GCC power-transfer deal

Deputy US secretary of state says GCC plan is the best way forward "to confront the challenging political situation in Yemen".

SANA'A // A top United States official increased the pressure on Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, yesterday by calling for an "immediate" transfer of power along the lines of a GCC-brokered plan.

"We continue to believe that an immediate, peaceful and orderly transition is in the best interest of Yemeni people. We urge all sides to engage in dialogue that peacefully moves Yemen forward," said Jeffrey Feltman, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, in Sana'a yesterday.

Mr Feltman told reporters the US was supporting the GCC plan because it has the approval of the Gulf states as well as some parts of the Yemeni opposition and even Mr Saleh's ruling party.

"The United States supports the initiative proposed by the Gulf Co-operation Council as a credible path to confront the challenging political situation in Yemen. We encourage all parties to move swiftly to implement the terms of the agreement so the Yemeni people can soon realise the security, unity and prosperity that they have so courageously sought and so richly deserve," he said.

The call comes as Mr Saleh is being treated in Saudi Arabia for injuries sustained in an attack on his palace on June 3.

Diplomatic attempts to bring about a transition of power have failed before. Mr Saleh announced his support for the GCC plan three times, but reneged on signing the plan at the last minute. Under the plan, Mr Saleh would hand power to his deputy, Abdurabu Mansur Hadi, within 30 days in exchange for a promise of immunity from prosecution for himself, his family and inner circle.

"We would expect the president to take the best interest of Yemen and it is a Yemeni decision whether he will come back or stay in Saudi Arabia," Mr Feltman said.

"The president said he supports the GCC initiative and we expect this support is still there. This initiative has certain scenarios; how it is signed and implemented," he said.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr Saleh was not likely to return to Yemen soon because of his serious injuries. The diplomat said the attack on the presidential mosque was not with rockets but several bombs that had been planted there. A security official told The National that five bombs were planted inside the mosque and one outside. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said only two of the bombs detonated.

Mr Feltman said that the US was providing support in the investigations into the attack. Gerald Feierstein, the US ambassador to Yemen, said: "Investigations are still going on and they are at the early stages". The diplomat said the investigations might take several months.

Mr Feltman met Mr Hadi, opposition leaders, representatives from civil society, students, business leaders and other foreign diplomats during his visit.