September 28, 2011
Yemen's foreign minister accused the opposition on Tuesday of fomenting the strife that has left thousands dead by not accepting the election of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Abubakr al-Qirbi told the United Nations that protests against Saleh since January had cost the country ê2 billion in damage to roads, oil pipelines, power lines and other infrastructure.
Saleh, who is under international pressure to relinquish power and allow new elections, returned to the country last week, sparking violence in which scores more have died.
Qirbi told the UN General Assembly the anti-Saleh protests threatened to unleash "civil war and devastating conflict."
The minister insisted that the Saleh government had defended democracy and was "protecting human rights".
He said opposition groups had been unable to accept Saleh's 2006 election and had carried out "subversive actions to seize power." The groups had "manipulated" youth protests about the lack of jobs.
Saleh is under increasing pressure to relinquish power from the Gulf Cooperation Council, which has sought to broker a peace deal, as well as the United Nations and the United States.
Qirbi said Saleh was committed to a GCC initiative under which he should hand over power to a transitional government. The minister said Yemen would be a "model for change."
His comments were dismissed by rights groups.
"If they are serious about upholding human rights, the Yemeni authorities should stop security forces from shooting peaceful protesters, allow an international inquiry into the bloodshed, and let the United Nations establish a human rights monitoring office," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch.