Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yemen Leader's Return Questioned

June 18, 2011

Yemeni officials said on Friday that President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in Saudi Arabia being treated for severe injuries from an attack on his presidential compound, would return to Yemen soon, a claim Saudi officials denied.

"President Saleh is in good health and will be back in Yemen very soon," said Tareq Shami, the ruling party's spokesman on Friday.

Mr. Saleh arrived in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, prompting speculation about his medical condition and whether his departure signaled the end of his 33 years in office. Yemeni and American officials have said that his recovery will probably take a few months.

Yemeni officials have maintained that Mr. Saleh plans to return and resume his rule while they hold meetings with opposition groups demanding a transition of power.

The international community, especially the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, is working to convince Mr. Saleh to step down.

A Saudi official said on Friday that "as far as he knows, Saleh is not returning to Yemen soon...but it is still up in the air where he will eventually end up."

Yemeni government officials however denied the report, saying Saudi Arabia has no right to interfere with Yemen's affairs.

"Yemen is an independent state and not a province within Saudi Arabia where they decide what happens in the country," said Ahmed Soufi, Mr.Saleh's media advisor.

In south Yemen, clashes between Islamist militants and security forces continued for a third day rising fears that the provinces of Lahj and Aden risk being taken over by militants.

The opposition staged large anti-government protests nationwide on Friday after the noon prayer service reiterating their demand for Mr.Saleh to step down. A small group of pro-government supporters gathered in Sanaa near the presidential palace pledging their loyalty to Mr.Saleh. The protests ended peacefully with no reports of clashes.

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