x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Yemen opposition asks West to freeze Saleh assets

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has remained in Saudi Arabia since June.

The Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, visits the wounded deputy premier Rashad Al Alimi in the Saudi capital on Saturday. EPA
The Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, visits the wounded deputy premier Rashad Al Alimi in the Saudi capital on Saturday. EPA

SANAA // A leading member of Yemen's opposition called on western countries to freeze the assets of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is clinging to power despite months of protest against his 33-year rule.

Sheikh Hamid Al Ahmar, a tribal leader and businessman in Yemen's main opposition party, the Islamist Islah, lashed out at Mr Saleh's sons' "desperate" attempts to keep his family in power as their father recovers in Saudi Arabia from a June assassination attempt.

"I call on western states ... to begin proceedings to seize the possessions and money of Saleh and his family, because they belong to the Yemeni people," he said in an interview with the daily Al Hayat, adding those funds could be used to repay the country's debts. The protests have paralysed Yemen, where even before the violence some 40 per cent of the population lived on about Dh7 per day.

Governments worldwide have responded to crackdowns on Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan protesters this year by freezing their long-time leaders' assets.

But while veteran presidents in Egypt and Tunisia bowed to pressure they quit, Mr Saleh remains in power. Mr Ahmar praised Saudi Arabia's role in mediating the crisis, dismissing accusations it is thwarting Yemeni demands for change: "I see the Gulf initiative, which was essentially a Saudi effort, as one of the supporting aspects of the revolution," he said.

Saudi Arabia has spearheaded a Gulf Arab plan to end Yemen's political deadlock by easing Mr Saleh out of office, but he backed out of signing it, leaving Yemen in political limbo.

* Reuters