x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Yemeni President Saleh calls for dialogue but keeps his grip on power

The revolution youth organising committee said it will boycott any talks with the ruling party and those behind the killing of innocent protesters.

SANA'A // The Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, wants a return to dialogue and not a transfer of power before elections, his vice president said, adding that the UN has begun working on a plan to move the process forward.

Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, the acting president, said Mr Saleh would not step down from power until a new president is elected. Instead Mr Saleh has called for a return to dialogue, a move that appeared to send the Yemen's political crisis back to square one.

"Saleh still has three million supporters in Yemen and that is why he remains Yemen's president. Saleh is ready to conduct early elections to rid the country from more crises," Mr Hadi said.

Mr Saleh is recovering in Saudi Arabia after a bomb attack struck a mosque in the presidential compound on June 3. Mr Hadi has said that Mr Saleh was so severely injured in the assassination attempt that it is uncertain when he will return to the country after his treatment.

Mr Hadi told journalists this week that the United Nations' plan to end the power struggle in Yemen called for dialogue to take place within two weeks.

The UN proposal was introduced last week when Jamal bin Omar, an envoy for the UN secretary general, visited Yemen and met with Mr Hadi. The proposal calls for opposition parties, Houthi rebels, the Southern Movement, exiled opposition members and youth leaders to take part in a round-table discussion in an effort to bring all sides to an agreement on a power transfer.

Nabil Bukairi, the director of Abaad research centre, said political factions have been in talks for the past two years and the results were fruitless.

"Yemenis today do not have the basics of life and cannot risk waiting for new dialogue sessions," he said.

New rounds of talks could take months and still fail, said Ali Jaradi, the editor in chief of Ahale independent newspaper.

"Hadi wants to stall more time for president Saleh and the ruling family," Mr Jaradi said. "He is not ready to take the driver's seat and lead. He is used to be being the No 2 man."

Mohammed Abulahoum, the president of the Development and Building party, said Mr Hadi was under pressure from all sides to lead the country out of the current crisis, but the crisis in Yemen could not go on for two more weeks.

"Yemenis have been patient since the start of the revolution, but if the ruling party insists on starting dialogue from step one, it's a sign that it intends to force people to kill one another after losing any hope of change," said Mr Abulahoum.

The revolution youth organising committee said it will boycott any talks with the ruling party and those behind the killing of innocent protesters.

"We started a peaceful revolution and we revolted against the regime, so how do you expect us to sit on the same table with the regime we want to oust," said the committee's spokesman, Waseem Qirshi.

On Thursday, Yemen's foreign minister said he had been instructed by Mr Saleh to set up talks with the opposition on the transfer of power.

Hopes that a plan to transfer power, brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council in May, would be signed appeared to be over. The proposal was welcomed by the United States, European Union, Russia, China, and many international powers. Mr Saleh agreed to sign the proposal several times, but never did.

A close aide to Mr Hadi said yesterday that western ambassadors, who met with Mr Hadi over the past two weeks, told the acting president that he had international support to sign the GCC proposal on behalf of Mr Saleh. But with members of Mr Saleh's family controlling the military and many in the ruling party still loyal to the injured president, Mr Hadi's powers are limited.

The Joint Meeting Parties, an opposition coalition of six parties, will only back the GCC proposal, Mohammed Qahtan, its spokesman said, adding that dialogue with the government will only take place when the Saleh regime is gone.

"People are dying and Hadi wants dialogue. Its times for power transfer to save the people from further bloodshed," he said.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae