A brief look: Please don’t go home, US urges Yemen’s Saleh

By Khadija Patel 11 August 2011

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah 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 in June. If Saleh does fly back to Sanaa, the tenuous calm in Yemen will almost assuredly erupt in renewed war between forces loyal to him and those loyal to his own dissident Al Ahmar tribe. By KHADIJA PATEL.

The American message to the Yemeni leader has been unambiguous – “Do not go home”. A diplomat quoted by the Abu Dhabi-based National states, “His return would make the situation worse.” For the moment, the presidential office in Yemen has not disclosed when Saleh can be expected home, preferring to insist that Saleh would return only once he finishes recovery.

Officially, it is up to Saleh’s doctors to prolong his stay in Saudi Arabia, but behind the scenes Saudi officials are likely to be pressing Saleh to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council’s plan for a peaceful transition of power from him to an affectation of democracy, or at the very least a leader more popular than Saleh.

The Yemeni state-run Saba news agency is pushing the line: “The ruling General People’s Congress is committed to find solutions to the disagreement with the opposition” on the Gulf initiative. The Congress, we’re told, is, “looking for a suitable mechanism to implement it that guarantees a peaceful and orderly transition of power and in accordance with the constitution.” Probing between the lines that can be reasonably assumed to mean the Saudis are forcing a pen into Saleh’s hand, hoping he can finally be prevailed on to signed the GCC deal.

Tarik al-Shami, spokesman of the ruling party, has dismissed reports of pressure on Saleh not to return home and said a power transfer will take place only through elections. Under the GCC plan, Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, would step down within 30 days of signing the deal and be guaranteed immunity from future prosecutions. DM

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Photo: A woman with headband portraying Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh attends a rally to show her support in Sanaa July 29, 2011. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.


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