x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

US tells Saleh to stay out of Yemen

Critics and rivals of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh urge the country to move on without him and the US tells him the same thing.

SANAA // The United States has advised the Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh not to return home from Saudi Arabia, a western diplomat said yesterday.

"His return would make the situation worse," the diplomat said.

Mr Saleh was discharged on Sunday from the Riyadh hospital where he had been receiving treatment for burns and other injuries sustained in a bomb attack on the mosque at the presidential compound on June 3.

His office in Yemen said on Tuesday he would return to the country "after he finishes his recovery period", and his doctors would determine the length of that recovery in Riydah.

Mr Saleh's critics and rivals have also urged the country to move on without him. There have been six months of often violent street protests calling for his removal, and many have warned that Yemen could erupt in civil war if he returns.

Sheikh Sadeq Al Ahmar, the leader of Yemen's most influential tribal confederation, vowed last month that he would not allow Mr Saleh to rule Yemen again.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been pressuring Mr Saleh not to return to Yemen and to transfer power immediately to the vice president, Abdurabu Mansur Hadi.

Mr Saleh has on three occasions announced he was ready to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council proposal in which he would step down after 33 years in power in exchange for immunity from prosecution, but each time he has backed out of the deal.

On Monday, Mark Toner, the US State Department spokesman, urged an immediate transfer of power to Mr Hadi, the acting head of state.

"All we can do is continue to press our belief that this transition needs to happen immediately and cannot wait until a decision is made about his future," Mr Toner said.

"So, what we're working on, through our embassy and ambassador, is trying to move the process forward now, rather than wait." Gerald Feierstein, the US ambassador to Yemen, echoed that sentiment the next day. The UN Security Council said it is "deeply concerned at the worsening security situation, including the threat from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula".

"We believe … dealing with the political, economic and security problems in Yemen cannot happen without a transfer of power in the country and the arrival of new leadership," Mr Feierstein told Radio Sawa, a US Arabic-language broadcaster.

"Washington has confidence in the abilities of the vice president Hadi." Mr Feierstein said he had met Mr Hadi about 13 times since June 3 to discuss the political standoff. "Hadi, who was assigned as acting president following the departure of Saleh, has gained Washington's full confidence, not only to accomplish the transition of power, but also to lead Yemen during the transition phase," he said.

The Security Council urged all sides to allow humanitarian access to Yemen and warned that there were increasingly severe shortages of basic supplies and growing damage to key infrastructure. The body called on all parties to "move forward urgently an inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led process of political transition".

One person was killed yesterday during protests demanding the government provide basic necessities such as fuel and wheat. It was also announced that a truce had been reached in Taez, Yemen's second largest city and the scene of sporadic clashes between troops and armed tribesmen. A ceasefire was agreed on Tuesday by representatives of the local authorities, tribes and youth protesters who have been demanding the removal of Mr Saleh.


* Additional reporting by Reuters and the Associated Press