Friday, September 16, 2011

Protests in Yemen as Saleh Delays Power Transfer

September 16, 2011- AP

SAN'A Yemen –Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Yemen Friday demanding the resignation of the president, a day after the U.S. State Department said it hoped a power transfer deal could be signed within a week.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been hanging on to his post despite local, regional and international pressure to leave office. Al-Qaeda linked militants have been taking advantage of the turmoil to overrun parts of southern Yemen.

Mr. Saleh has come close to signing the Gulf Cooperation Council's power transfer proposal several times, only to back out at the last minute. It offers him and his family immunity from prosecution over the deaths of protesters in exchange for leaving office.

Mr. Saleh has been in Saudi Arabia since early June, when he was seriously wounded in an attack on his compound in San'a. On Friday a Saudi official said he will not return to Yemen.

While that could be an indication that he will agree to leave office, the official said that in his conversations with Mr. Saleh, the president expressed discontent with the Gulf Cooperation Council's proposed deal. Mr. Saleh, according to the official, felt that Saudi Arabia cheated him by backing the accord following pressure from the United States.

The official said he met Mr. Saleh at the palace where he is residing in Riyadh and that the president was with a number of his children. He said the luxurious palace offered to Mr. Saleh by Saudi leaders is meant to show the extent to which they want him to remain in the kingdom.

The U.S. issued a statement late Thursday that indicated arrangements for him to resign could be nearly complete.

"The United States believes that these remaining tasks can and should be accomplished quickly and it hopes that an agreement is reached and the signing of the GCC Initiative takes place within one week," said the State Department in a statement.

Opponents of the president kept up their pressure Friday.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in San'a and other major cities, including the southern city of Taiz, to demand Mr. Saleh's resignation. A day earlier in Taiz, government forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing one and wounding 10 others, a medical official said.

The U.S., which has supported Yemen's military in its fight against al-Qaeda-linked militants in the south, also said that it remains concerned about reports of continued violence and called on the Yemeni government to protect peaceful protesters. The U.S. has withdrawn its support from Mr. Saleh, once a close ally.

Islamic militants linked with al-Qaeda have taken advantage of the political turmoil gripping Yemen, seizing control of a number of towns and the provincial capital of the southern province of Abyan.

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