Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Saleh 'back in Yemen on Friday', ruling party insists

Jun 22, 2011

SANA'A // Yemen's ruling party announced yesterday that Ali Adullah Saleh would be back in the capital on Friday, but an opposition leader discounted the possibility of the president's return.

Abdul Hafed Al Nahari, a spokesman for the General People's Congress, said preparations were being made for a massive celebration, which will be attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

Ahmed Soufi, Mr Saleh's senior adviser, said the only chance that Mr Saleh does not return this week is if his doctors in Riyadh recommend that he stays there longer.

"Saleh is healthy now and it is time that he comes back to Yemen and lead the country," Mr Soufi said.

A close family member of Mr Saleh said he underwent an operation yesterday to his lungs, his third since his arrival in Saudi Arabia more than two weeks ago.

"He is recovering faster than we thought he would. It will take him more than a month to return to full strength but President Saleh is seeking to continue the remaining simple medical procedures in Yemen," said the relative.

State television has not announced Mr Saleh's expected return to the country.

Yasser Al Yamani, a senior Saleh aide, said: "Saleh's arrival back to Yemen is not a surprise. We said all along that he is travelling for medical treatment and like any other president in the world, is expected to be back to his country and continue with the role of leadership."

The opposition Joint Meeting Parties are not taking the ruling party comments seriously. The JMP said that it received confirmation from a number of western ambassadors that Mr Saleh will not be back.

Hasan Zaid, the secretary general of the Haq party, said that if Mr Saleh were returning to Yemen on Friday it would mean that he had died and his body was there for burial.

"Seven of President Saleh's personal guards were killed in the presidential palace attack, and they were young and healthy. Mr Saleh was among them and it is only logic that his health is critical."

In Mr Saleh's absence, the acting head of state, vice-president Abdo Rabu Hadi, is under pressure to form a joint transitional government, a senior aide to the vice president said.

"Vice-president Abdo Rabu Hadi was given a short deadline to reach agreement between political factions and he is taking this seriously," the aide said on Monday.

Yaseen Noman, the secretary general of the Socialist party, said yesterday that numerous obstacles stand in the way of the opposition agreeing to any transitional council, including the existence of new forces within the opposition that want a share in power, including the Houthis, youth movements, newly formed political parties, and southern representatives.

Mohammed Qahtan, the JMP spokesman, said the youth movement rejected any representation for the ruling party and a transition government without them would not be fair or represent all the political factions in Yemen.

"Not giving Mr Saleh's party any representation in a transition government would not be accepted by the international community. That is why we cannot accept it," said Mr Qahtan.

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