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Yemen's Nobel winner says Saleh must be banned from politics

Tawakul Karman, who was a leading figure during the youth uprising in Yemen in 2011, also says President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi is unable to implement his plans to reshape Yemen's security forces because he does not control the army.

Tawakul Karman, centre, Yemen's Nobel peace laureate, says her country is on the brink of collapse. File / AP Photo
Tawakul Karman, centre, Yemen's Nobel peace laureate, says her country is on the brink of collapse. File / AP Photo

SANAA // The Yemeni Nobel peace laureate Tawakul Karman warned today that her country's transition process is on the brink of collapse and demanded former president Ali Abdullah Saleh be banned from politics.

The activist, who was a leading figure during the youth uprising in Yemen in 2011, also claimed that President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi is unable to implement his plans to reshape Yemen's security forces because he does not control the army.

"The main obstacle facing the political transition and threatening its viability is the fact that Ali Abdullah Saleh remains a president of the General People's Congress," the former ruling party, Ms Karman said.

She pointed out that Mr Saleh's party is supposed to present more than 20 per cent of participants in an envisaged national dialogue aimed at drafting a new constitution and preparing for fresh elections in February 2014.

"The ousted president is the one to choose the GPC's representatives," she said, adding that Mr Saleh's party "rejects the dialogue".

Ms Karman insisted that the former head of state "should exit politics completely".

"He has a lot of money that he uses to destroy Yemen, harm the political process and execute vengeance," she said.

Mr Saleh was eased out of office after 33 years in powers thanks to a UN-backed and GCC-brokered deal that ended a year of protests that rocked the country.

The agreement reached in November 2011 with the opposition gave Mr Saleh and his aides immunity from prosecution, but it did not stipulate a political ban on him.

The deal, signed in Riyadh after months of anti-government protests and deadly clashes between pro- and anti-Saleh troops, brought Mr Hadi to power for an interim two-year period in a single-candidate vote.

It also called for a national dialogue where all parties, including the opposition, youth and northern rebels are expected to come together and agree on a new constitution and on the next presidential and parliamentary elections.

The dialogue was scheduled for mid-November last year but has not yet begun, with several parties failing to name representatives.

"The political transition process is not going according to the mechanism set in the Gulf initiative, which was imposed on us and we accepted it only on the condition that it will be fully implemented," said Ms Karman.

"The world should listen to us and assume responsibilities now that we say that the country is on the brink of collapse."

The first Arab woman to win the Nobel peace prize, Ms Karman claimed that the interim president has been powerless to implement decisions he made to restructure the military and remove Mr Saleh's relatives from influential posts.

"President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi does not control the army. It remains within the control of the former regime," she said.

She claimed that a decision to dismantle the elite Republican Guard, which is led by Mr Saleh's son Ahmed, and allocating its brigades to other divisions has not be implemented.

Another decision, to dismantle the First Armoured Division, led by General Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar who defected and backed the uprising against Mr Saleh, has also still to be executed.

"This dialogue will fail if this matter is not sorted out; restructuring the military and security forces comes first, then comes the national dialogue," she said, warning of a possible return to street protests.

"If we find that the country will be heading to collapse, we might find that the solution would be in returning to our base in the street, and demonstrations," she said, claiming that the youth, women and the civil society are not being given a proper say in the preparations for the dialogue.