Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Associated Press / November 30, 2011
SANAA, Yemen—Thousands of residents fled the central Yemen city of Taiz Wednesday when government forces shelled the city, killing one person, and two guards were shot dead in the south by Islamist militants, and activist and an official said.
The violence raged despite longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh's agreement to step down. He has been the target of months of protests, and some units of his military have joined the rebels.
Government forces began shelling Taiz Tuesday and continued Wednesday, according to activist Nouh al-Wafi. He said three people were wounded and several shops were destroyed.
Taiz is Yemen's second-largest city and a hotbed of the opposition to Saleh.
The city is often shelled by the army in response to hit-and-run attacks by armed tribesmen and soldiers who support the anti-government protesters.
In the southern province of Aden, a security official said gunmen opened fire on a security officer of the special forces while driving in the Khor Maksar town, killing two of his guards. The officer escaped unharmed.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with security rules, said the attackers were believed to be al-Qaida-linked militants. Yemen has one of the world's most active al-Qaida branches.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis demonstrated in Aden Wednesday on the 44th anniversary of independence of South Yemen from Britain. South and North Yemen merged under Saleh in 1990.
Also, thousands demonstrated in the southern town of Ibb, activist Ahmed Aqil said.
The demonstrators called for Saleh to be put on trial for alleged corruption and killing of protesters during the nine-month uprising.
Saleh signed a U.S.-backed power transfer deal, brokered by neighboring countries, last week in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It transfers power to his vice president and grants Saleh immunity from prosecution.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
SANAA Nov 29 (Reuters) - Yemen's prime minister-designate promised on Tuesday to announce his government within days, saying Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would help the country with oil and electricity as it tries to pull back from the brink of civil war.
Mohammed Basindwa, a former foreign minister, has been tasked under a Gulf-brokered peace plan with forming the interim cabinet after President Ali Abdullah Saleh handed power to his deputy following 10 months of protests seeking his overthrow.
"The government will be announced within days," Basindwa told a meeting of opposition groups that he led during the protests against Saleh.
Basindwa said he had told the Saudi and UAE foreign ministers that "Yemen urgently needed immediate support in the electricity and oil sectors ... and they agreed to that".
It was not clear on what terms the two Gulf states were offering to help with the oil and power.
However, earlier this year Riyadh granted three million barrels of crude oil to Yemen, whose modest exports -- a source of revenue for imports of staple foodstuffs -- have often been halted by attacks on pipelines during the political standoff.
Yemeni Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has been empowered to run the country during an interim period, has called an early presidential election on Feb. 21, 2012 as part of the Gulf Coooperation Council initiative.
Hadi named Basindwa, who joined the opposition during the protests, as interim premier on Sunday.
Under the power transfer plan which Saleh signed in Riyadh last week, a government should be formed with the participation of opposition groups.
But it also effectively ensures Saleh and his family immunity from prosecution. This has angered youth organisers of the protests against Saleh's 33-year rule, during which hundreds of people have been killed and simmering conflicts with separatists and both Sunni and Shi'ite rebels have flared.
By James Fallon
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh last week signed a deal crafted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to exit from power. While a marginally positive development, the pact is not sufficient to restore political stability in the near future. There are serious challenges to implementation and the ten-month political crisis has made ink on paper less relevant than the competing interests of Yemen's political players. Military and political power has fragmented to such a degree over the past ten months that repairing the state will be a difficult and protracted process. Furthermore, the deal does not satisfy the demands of protestors who have emerged as influential political stakeholders over the course of the crisis. And while most establishment players will likely work with the deal, they are not likely to quickly abandon any territorial, political, or military advantage gained over the past ten months.
Under the agreement, Saleh is to transfer his presidential powers to Vice President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi while remaining honorary president for 90 days. Within this time, the vice president is expected to steward the formation of a national unity government chaired by an opposition figure (Hadi has tapped opposition leader and long-time Yemeni politician Mohammed Basindwa for the task) and preside over a presidential election, currently slated for February 2012. Hadi will also lead efforts to restructure the military. In return, Saleh is to receive immunity from prosecution.
But the deal is unlikely to usher in the return of a normal political process in such a neat timeframe. The most immediate challenge will be demilitarizing major cities such as Sana'a and Taiz and restructuring the military. Certain units remain under the control of Saleh's family members and allies, and others are controlled by their political rivals -- the GCC deal does not change this reality. Tribal forces have also proven formidable and have gained military control of some parts of the country; on-again off-again clashes between tribesmen and pro-Saleh units continue north of the capital. Should Saleh leave the country during the transition period, as has been rumored, it could reinforce the transition process's credibility. But he would still exercise influence. On Nov. 26, he issued a general amnesty, highlighting the ambiguity of his current position; a tactic that he has employed consistently to maintain his power. Protesters will continue to fill the streets in order to draw concessions from the political establishment; they reject the immunity clause in the GCC deal and remain suspicious of establishment opposition figures. Street protests alone are unlikely to derail the political process, but will influence its credibility and ultimate success or failure.
Apart from political wrangling, Yemen will also continue to face serious territorial challenges. The issue of southern independence, which has been largely eclipsed by the political standoff, will likely resurface as the country grapples with building a new governing structure. Further, the situation in Sa'ada province has deteriorated significantly, with increasing clashes between Salafist and Houthi militias. Clandestine financial or military assistance for these groups from the Gulf countries and Iran is difficult to gauge, but the perception alone heightens tensions. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also gained room to operate as a result of the crisis and the state will remain constrained in its ability to confront the group. AQAP, however, will be hard pressed to cause any sustained disruptions to Saudi oil output or sea transport through the Gulf of Aden, and is highly unlikely to exercise any direct influence in the political process. The United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to use their military and intelligence capabilities to confront the group -- but neither of these countries has the capacity to effect a sustainable military solution to Yemen's problems.
James Fallon is an associate with Eurasia Group's Middle East practice.
On 29 November, the members of the Security Council heard a briefing on the situation in Yemen from the United Nations Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, and the Deputy Director for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) Coordination and Response Division, Philippe Lazzarini.
The members of the Security Council commended the efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and of the United Nations Special Adviser, Mr. Benomar. They welcomed the agreement by the parties, on the basis of the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, as well as the signing of the initiative by the President of Yemen, and the signing by the parties of the implementation mechanism, thus beginning the period of peaceful transition of power, as called for in Security Council resolution 2014 (2011).
The members of the Security Council agreed that the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and implementation mechanism must now be implemented in a serious, transparent and timely manner, and in a spirit of inclusion and reconciliation. They noted the Security Council’s support for Yemen in its efforts to reach key milestones in the implementation plan, and expected the parties to honour the timetable set out in the agreement, including the formation of a Government of National Consensus, presidential elections within 90 days, a national dialogue, a constitutional review and a programme of reforms that start to tackle the profound humanitarian, economic and security challenges that Yemen faces.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their commitment to the territorial integrity and unity of Yemen. They urged all the parties to reject violence, refrain from any further provocations and to fully implement Security Council resolution 2014 (2011). The members of the Security Council reiterated that all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable. They deplored the violence on 24 November that reportedly led to five deaths in Sana’a. The members of the Security Council emphasized the need for increased and unimpeded humanitarian access to address the growing crisis. The members of the Security Council also called on all the Yemeni parties to work with the increasing support of the United Nations, international community and the GCC countries, immediately towards achieving peace, stability and reconciliation, as well as alleviating the humanitarian and economic situation in Yemen.
The members of the Security Council welcomed the efforts of the good offices of the Secretary-General and the dispatch of the United Nations electoral assistance mission. They reaffirmed their intention to continue to actively monitor the security, political and humanitarian situation in Yemen and the implementation of Security Council resolution 2014 (2011). They looked forward to a further update on the situation within 30 days, including on the status of the implementation of the political transition agreements.
Monday, November 28, 2011
November 28, 2011
Living up to his task of rebuilding the national government, Yemen's transitional president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi named opposition leader Mohammed Basindwa as the country's new prime minister on Sunday.
Hadi was vice-president under Ali Abdullah Saleh, who despite making an appearance on Monday and pardoning protestors (although not the ones who tried to kill him by bombing the presidential palace) agreed to step down last week.
In Yemen, the prime minister is the head of the government and is appointed by the president, who is the head of the state. The Council of Ministers, who make up most of the Cabinet, are appointed by the president on the prime minster's recommendation.
Yemen's last Prime Minister, Ali Muhammad Mujawar, was fired by Saleh in March along with other members of the cabinet, but asked to stay on until a new government was formed.
Basindwa has been given the role of forming a new, reconciliation government before presidential elections are held in February.
"A presidential decree issued today ... mandated Mohammed Salem Basindwa to form a government of national unity," news agency Saba reported.
Basindwa served as a foreign minister for Saleh between 1993 to 1994, but left Saleh's ruling General People's Congress a decade ago to become an independent politician.
Basindwa was endorsed by a number of opposition parties for the prime minister position. But will his appointment do enough to stop the unrest and demonstrations in the country?
If Saleh does actually concede power, he will be the fourth Arab leader to do so this year. His 33-year reign was ended after 10 months of protesting, during which hundreds of people died. Anti-government activists were thrilled with Saleh's apparent departure, but his appearance on Monday angered those who hoped Saleh was gone from Yemeni politics for good.
Saleh's departure does open up Yemen to new threats. The former leader had unified the many fractious groups in Yemen by using force and strategic allegiances -- however, now the many tribes and militant groups in the country are finding room to operate since Saleh is weakened.
On Sunday, Shi'ite rebels from the Zaidi sect allegedly attacked a Sunni Islamist school, among other places, in the province of Saada. At least 24 people were killed and 50 wounded, according to Voice of America News.
In the three months leading up to the new presidential elections, Hadi and Basindwa will also have to deal with southern separatists, Salafi tribes and a branch of al-Qaida.
Basindwa, an independent politician and former Foreign Minister of the Saleh administration, was commissioned by Vice President and acting President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, according to a decree issued on Sunday as part of the recent agreement for the transition.
The next government will replace the interim one headed by Mohammed Ali Mujawar, which will remain until the completion of early presidential and legislative elections, confirmed on Saturday to take place on February 21, 2012.
According to officials close to Hadi, the appointed Prime Minister in a week will constitute a cabinet with equal participation of opposition members in the coalition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) and the ruling General People's Congress (GPC).
The procedure is part of an initiative of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), supported by the United States and European Union, signed on Wednesday by Saleh in Saudi Arabia to transfer his powers to Hadi, in exchange for judicial immunity for him and his family.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands November 28, 2011 (AP)
Nobel peace laureate Tawakkul Karman urged the International Criminal Court prosecutor Monday to launch an investigation into the violent crackdown on dissent in Yemen by the country's former president.
But Karman also lamented that her request stands little chance of success since Yemen is not a member of the court and she called for a stronger mechanism for bringing to account dictators who turn on their own people to cling to power.
Because Yemen has not signed the court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the only way the prosecutor could launch an investigation is if the United Nations Security Council tells him to.
"This is unfair," Karman said on the steps of the court's headquarters. "They have to find a new way to bring everyone who is killing his people to here, to this building."
Karman visited the court to present Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo with a file on crimes she said were committed by the regime of Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh stepped down last week in a deal that promised him immunity from prosecution, but Karman said she was at the court "to tell them, 'Don't allow any one to give Saleh and his regime any immunity.'"
Karman won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for her role in the protest movement that forced Saleh's ouster.
"I promised the people in Yemen ... that after they announced I won the Nobel Peace Prize that the first job I will do is taking the file of crimes of Ali Saleh to the ICC," she said on the steps of the court's headquarters. "I am here to tell the ICC they have to try Ali Saleh and all his regime when they kill people."
Saleh stubbornly clung to power despite nearly 10 months of huge street protests in which hundreds of people were killed by his security forces. At one point, Saleh's palace mosque was bombed and he was treated in Saudi Arabia for severe burns.
Saleh signed the U.S.-backed power-transfer deal, brokered by neighboring countries, on Wednesday in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It officially transferred power to his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
But many in the country doubt the deal marked the end of Saleh's political life, and tens of thousands of protesters in Yemen, who have distanced themselves from the formal opposition movement, rejected the immunity clause, saying Saleh should face justice for allegations of corruption by his regime as well as the recent bloodshed as his forces try to put down the uprising against his 33-year rule.
At a meeting for the General Committee of the General People's Congress (GPC) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Sana’a, President Saleh said that the amnesty does not include those involved in crime and in the attack against the mosque at the presidential palace.
He added that suspects who are members of political parties, groups or individuals will be brought to trial.
Following is the text of the speech delivered by President Saleh.
This meeting comes after the signing of the Gulf initiative and its implementation mechanism, which was supposed to have been signed earlier, but, unfortunately, some parties procrastinated on the format and terms of the time-tabled mechanism, leading to the delay of the initiative that was supposed to have been signed earlier to end the growing crisis in the homeland, which has caused great damage to the development, social, cultural, and political fields as well as all other fields.
This initiative and its implementation mechanism were supposed to have been signed and implemented earlier. We inform you that the initiative was signed in Riyadh under the patronage of King Abdullah Bin-Abdul-Aziz and in the presence of the GCC foreign ministers and ambassadors of the countries which are permanent members of the UN Security Council. God willing, this initiative and its implementation mechanism will find a way for implementation without delay, objection, or excuses.
The initiative and its mechanism make up an integrated formula that specifies when and how the initiative and its mechanism are implemented. Neither the opposition nor the ruling party can be selective about what to implement of the initiative or the mechanism. A dialogue should be held under the auspices of Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi and whomever he chooses from the leadership of the General People's Congress and the National Democratic Alliance in order to develop timelines. Those who procrastinate will bear the responsibility, as the GCC secretary general and UN envoy to Yemen must be informed to know who is hampering the process.
Another point is that after the signing of the initiative, it is only natural for things to go back to normal. Banditry, blocking roads, demonstrations, sit-ins, and attacks against military camps and power pylons must stop in order to establish social peace. This is an integrated system that paves the way for moving forward in implementing the initiative and the mechanism, thus being selective and washing hands of responsibility are not accepted in any way.
Any attacks and disruption of security must be condemned, even if by the opposition - the so-called Joint Meeting Parties and its allies and associates - or by the regime. The country cannot afford more than it has done in the past 10 months; it has endured much and they have destroyed a lot. The things that have been destroyed were not ordinary, but they were established in difficult circumstances and accomplished through the togetherness and cooperation of all the sincere and patriotic people of this country. We should preserve what is left and rebuild the damages caused by this crisis.
I consider the signing in Riyadh a victory for the Yemeni people, as there are no winners or losers. It is a victory for the Yemeni people and their free will. Those who talk of losers and winners are mentally ill. This is nonsense. The media must adopt a policy of appeasement. This must be adopted by all sides: the government, ruling party and its allies, and the so-called JMP.
Here we are today after this great achievement, which was blessed by the whole world and all international organizations, including the United Nations, European Union, United States, GCC, Arab countries, and all international organizations including civil society organizations. They consider this a great achievement that avoided a plan to divide the homeland. All the statements we have heard support maintaining the unity, security, and stability of the country. Those at home and abroad who adopt unacceptable agendas after the achievement of unity in 1990 must understand these messages. This is a mad agenda.
But everyone is looking for a role saying "I will be." No, it is still "today." Every age, a new state and new men arise. Our country is full of politicians and honest men. I remember I gave a speech during t he 2006 elections and said that the presidential term is seven years but that I will rule for only five. Another point I would like to make is that at the beginning of the crisis I said that it will end in February. I said this, and those words did not come out of the blue; we know the givens and what is going on in the country. We are looking for a way out for those whose faces have turned black, and I remember I said in a speech in Hajjah that the day will come when some faces will turn black and others will be lit, where he compares those who do shameful acts with those who do good deeds. Here we are today, there are some whose faces have turned black and are unable to go back to what they were originally. Blackened! It is a beautiful thing to see that it is hard for those whose faces have turned black to return to their original state, what a shame.
Anyway, our people are steadfast and bear hardships, power outages, and lack of fuel and food supplies for the sake of the country not for the sake of unsound leaders, whether currently ruling or seek to rule. If those leaders are unsound and come to power, they must go to hospitals for treatment in order to reach safety.
Today's meeting is to inform our brothers of the outcomes of the Riyadh meetings. The leaders in Riyadh were satisfied with the arrival of Yemenis to sign the initiative. Now, you must support the vice president, stand as one entity, and shoulder full responsibility. The initiative is clear and you must not deviate from the initiative and its mechanism, you can but seek its provisions. We welcome their partnership and we welcome them as partners in the government during the 90-day transitional period, which will be followed by presidential elections. The coalition will continue, but people change, and may God help you. I hope this meeting elects its government members in accordance with an agreement and dialogue between the vice president and other parties about how to choose and determine portfolios. The vice president has to make a quick decision of nominating the prime minister if officially nominated by the opposition parties under the initiative and its mechanism.
This is what I wanted to talk about in this meeting, and I also wanted to thank the steadfast people for their good feelings, interest, and following the events in Riyadh. I thank the brothers who came to Riyadh to attend the signing ceremony. The initiative has been signed, and what matters is goodwill and good heart after the signing.
Thank you very much for listening.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
If the agreement goes according to plan, Mr Saleh will become the fourth Arab ruler brought down by mass demonstrations that have reshaped the political landscape of the Middle East.
Mr Saleh returned home on Saturday after signing the deal with the opposition in Riyadh on Wednesday under which he transferred his powers to Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the vice-president, after 33 years in office and 10 months of protests.
In a decree run on the Saba state news agency on Saturday, Mr Hadi said Yemenis “are called on to vote in early elections for a new president of the republic starting at 8 o’clock on the morning of Tuesday, February 21 2012”.
“The early presidential election will take place under the management of the Supreme Commission For Elections and Referendum,” the decree added.
Yemen has become engulfed under Mr Saleh by political strife that has allowed free rein to northern rebels, southern secessionists and al-Qaeda.
Under the agreement, signed with the Yemeni opposition at a ceremony hosted by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Mr Saleh will receive immunity from prosecution and keep his title until a successor is elected. Mr Hadi was charged with calling the election within three months and forming a new government with the opposition.
Hundreds of people have been killed during months of protests seeking Mr Saleh’s overthrow. The political deadlock has reignited conflicts with separatists and militants, raising fears that al-Qaeda’s Yemen wing could take a foothold on the borders of Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.
Details of the power transfer deal – drawn up by Yemen’s richer neighbours in the Gulf Co-operation Council earlier this year, and thwarted by Mr Saleh on three separate occasions – were hammered out by Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy, with support from US and European diplomats.
The deal has failed to appease protesters at Sana’a’s “Change Square”, with many of them angry that it has guaranteed Mr Saleh and his family immunity.
On Friday, opposition parties agreed to nominate the head of an alliance that led the protests, Mohammed Basindwa, to form a new government. Mr Basindwa is a former foreign minister who leads the opposition National Council formed after the protests broke out in February.
Earlier on Saturday, 10 people were killed in north Yemen when Shia Muslim rebels shelled positions held by Sunni Islamist Salafi fighters after the collapse of a week-old ceasefire, a Salafi representative said.
The conflict between the Shia Houthi rebels and the Sunni Salafis is just one of several plaguing Yemen. In recent weeks, the Houthis have skirmished with Salafist fighters, leading local tribesmen to broker a truce between them a week ago.
“The Houthis broke the ceasefire and shelled the town of Damaj,” said the Salafi spokesman, who identified himself as Abu Ismail, adding that 15 people were injured.
Members of the Zaidi sect of Shi’ite Islam, the Houthi rebels led an uprising based in the northern Saada province that Mr Saleh’s forces have struggled to crush, with Saudi Arabia intervening militarily in 2009 before a ceasefire took hold last year.
The Houthis, who in effect control Saada, are deeply wary of Saudi Arabia’s promotion of puritanical Sunni Salafi creeds that regard Shia as heretics.
Saleh Habra, a Houthi leader, has accused the Yemeni government of supplying arms to the Salafis, who he said were trying to build a military camp near the Saudi border. “We are trying to cut off their arms supplies,” Mr Habra told Reuters last week.
Separately, Yemeni aircraft bombed sites used by anti-government tribal militants in northern Sana’a, killing seven people, tribal sources said on Saturday.
Those sources said tribal fighters were seeking to surround a camp used by the Republican Guard, a unit led by Mr Saleh’s son.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has pardoned those who "committed errors during the crisis" that has rocked the country since January and killed hundreds of people, state television reported Sunday.
The announcement immediately drew the ire of opposition groups who say Saleh can no longer take such decisions having transferred his powers to his deputy under a Gulf deal to step down in return for immunity from prosecution.
"The President of the republic has decreed a general amnesty for all those who have committed errors during the crisis," said a statement flashed on state television.
The reported pardon came as tensions remain high in Yemen, where Saleh returned overnight from Riyadh, where he signed the Gulf-brokered deal to step aside.
"This is in violation of the Gulf initiative by which the president delegated his powers to the vice-president," opposition spokeswoman Hurriya Mashhud told AFP.
"He no longer has the right, nor the prerogative or the capacity to take such decisions," she added.
The Gulf-brokered deal signed on Wednesday stipulates that Saleh -- who has been in power for more than three decades but faced 10 months of massive anti-regime protests -- must leave power within 90 days.
Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, to whom Saleh transferred power under the Gulf deal, announced on Saturday that a new presidential election will take place on February 21 -- one year ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile the state broadcaster said that the amnesty decided by Saleh "does not include those involved in crime and in the attack against the mosque at the presidential palace compound."
Suspects who are "members of [political] parties, groups or individuals will be brought to trial," the report added.
Saleh was wounded in the June 3 bomb attack and had to seek treatment in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
AFP , Sunday 27 Nov 2011
The four were hit with rockets and artillery on Saturday "in a car belonging to Al-Qaeda" on the road from provincial capital Zinjibar to Jaar, two towns held by insurgents linked to the extremist group, a tribal source told AFP.
"The vehicle was burned to a cinder and the four people inside, including an Iraqi, were killed," added the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Also in Abyan province -- a bastion of Al-Qaeda-linked fighters -- witnesses reported that Zinjibar resident Saleh Bashrima, 35, who was accused of rape, had his right hand amputated in public on Saturday "by Al-Qaeda members."
Since May, the militants have taken control of several towns in Abyan as 10 straight months of protests against veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime have weakened central government control.
The militants from the group Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) have in recent weeks enforced their own very strict interpretation of Islamic justice. On November 12, they handed out 80 lashes each to five youths they said had taken narcotic pills.
In September, the militants severed the hand of a 15-year-old as punishment for stealing electrical cables. He later died from blood loss. Despite months of clashes, government troops have so far been unable to take back full control of Abyan's towns and cities.
Yemen’s Shiite Muslim Houthis killed 24 Salafist Sunni Muslims yesterday after a week of sporadic fighting between the two religious communities in the north of the country near the border with Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis attacked the Dar al-Hadith religious school in the Dammaj region in Saada, according to Abdulhamid al-Hajouri, the principal of the school. About 60 Salafists, who are considered conservative Sunni Muslims, were wounded in the clashes, Abu Ismail, spokesman for the group in Dammaj, said in a phone interview today. Several Houthi fighters were also killed and wounded, Dhaifallah al-Shami, a leader of the Shiite group, said.
The fighting occurred the same week that President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed an agreement to relinquish power to Vice President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi. Saleh and an opposition delegation signed on Nov. 23 a power-transfer agreement brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
The Houthis, so-called because of the family name of their leaders, began fighting the government in the northern province of Saada in 2004. The conflict has in the past drawn in Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim-led monarchy. Saudi Arabia lost more than 100 soldiers in a three-month battle against the Houthis that ended in February 2010.
Yemen's Vice-President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi has named a senior opposition figure, Mohammed Basindwa, as interim prime minister, but many questions remain over the role of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The president apparently transferred his powers to Mr Hadi under a deal to end months of deadly unrest, but still appears to be playing an active role in affairs.
His latest move was to offer an amnesty to those who "committed errors during the crisis".
The presidential decree (28) for 2011 was done under the Gulf-brokered initiative and its implementation mechanism signed in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on 23 November.
Sana, Nov 26 (Prensa Latina) Representatives of the movement opposed to the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh promised Saturday to carry on with the peaceful demonstrations demanding that Ali Abdullah Saleh is tried, despite the use of violence from military forces that have left two killed.
After the mass demonstrations Friday in Sanaa and other cities, the activists who started the popular uprising against Saleh on Jan. 27 continue reluctant to grant legal immunity to the president and his family as a gift for him to leave power.
Protesters gathered at the Change Square labelled as "traitors" the opposition parties of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP)coalition that negotiated an initiative by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)with the General People's Congress (GPC).
On Friday, The parties that signed the GCC agreement named Mohamed Basindwa prime minister of the future government, which does not guarantee substantial changes since the Army and the strongest branches of Yemen's security forces are still in the hands of SalehÂ�s relatives.
The signs of distress among the most radical opposition sectors yesterday resulted in clashes between the Central Security forces commanded by Salehâ�Ös nephew, Colonel Yehia Saleh, and the First Armored Division, headed by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahma.
According to medical and military sources, two soldiers were killed, one from each side, and dozens were injured during the clashes that took place Friday near the house of the vice president.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
SANAA (Reuters) - Three people were killed in north Yemen on Saturday when Shi'ite Muslim rebels shelled positions held by Sunni Islamist Salafi fighters after the collapse of a week-old cease-fire, a Salafi spokesman said.
The conflict between the Shi'ite Houthi rebels and the Sunni Salafis is just one of several plaguing Yemen as it looks to elections to replace President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who agreed this week to step down after 10 months of protests to end his 33-year rule.
In recent weeks, the Houthis have skirmished with Salafist fighters, leading local tribesmen to broker a truce between them a week ago.
"The Houthis broke the cease-fire and shelled the town of Damaj," said the Salafi spokesman, who identified himself as Abu Ismail, adding two people were injured.
The fresh violence highlights the risk of civil war in a country that borders the world's largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia. Washington and Riyadh fear a political vacuum in Yemen could embolden al Qaeda's Yemen wing and potentially threaten oil supplies.
Members of the Zaidi sect of Shi'ite Islam, the Houthi rebels led an uprising based in the northern Saada province that Saleh's forces struggled to crush, with Saudi Arabia intervening militarily in 2009 before a cease-fire took hold the next year.
The Houthis, who effectively control Saada, are deeply wary of Saudi Arabia's promotion of puritanical Sunni Salafi creeds that regard Shi'ites as heretics.
MILITANT SITES BOMBED
Saleh Habra, a Houthi leader, has accused the Yemeni government of supplying arms to the Salafis, who he said were trying to build a military camp near the Saudi border, and said his side was trying to keep arms from reaching their enemies.
"We are trying to cut off their arms supplies," Habra told Reuters last week.
Separately, Yemeni combat aircraft bombed sites used by anti-government tribal militants in northern Sanaa, killing seven people, tribal sources said on Saturday.
Those sources said tribal fighters were seeking to surround a camp used by the Republican Guard, a unit led by Saleh's son.
A security official leaked the information to the media on condition of anonymity, AP reported on Saturday.
The reason for the heavy offensive is believed to have been that the tribesmen had taken over a military camp in the region a few days prior to the attack.
While there have yet not been any independent reports to confirm the event, a soldier from Yemen's 63rd Brigade who escaped the camp said that the tribesmen had overrun it.
Moreover, the soldier added that some 20 troops loyal to Saleh had been killed in the clashes.
Scores of tribesmen have lost their lives in military attacks on tribal areas since the beginning of the uprising against the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh in late January.
Moreover, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters have also been killed and thousands more injured by forces loyal to Saleh.
Saleh singed a power transfer deal proposed by Persian Gulf littoral states in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Under the deal, the Yemeni dictator transfers his presidential powers to his deputy, Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who is expected to form a national unity government and also call for early presidential elections in 90 days.
The deal also grants Saleh immunity in return for his resignation.
However, protesters have rejected the deal saying they want Saleh prosecuted for the people his forces killed during the crackdown on anti-regime demonstrators.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism aide urged Yemen's ruling party Saturday to cooperate with the opposition after the vice president called presidential elections for February 21.
The White House said John Brennan telephoned Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to "commend" him for announcing the date of the election, struck under a deal to end violent protests against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
"It is critically important for the ruling party and the opposition to work together in the weeks and months ahead and to devote themselves fully to the implementation of the agreement," the White House said in a statement about the call.
Washington worries al Qaeda militants may seek to exploit instability in Yemen to strengthen their network in the country and launch attacks against the United States.
Saleh signed the deal with the opposition Wednesday, transferring power to Hadi after 33 years in office and 10 months of protest against his rule.
"All parties need to refrain from violence and proceed with the transition in a peaceful and orderly manner," the White House said, adding Brennan and Hadi "agreed on the need to quickly implement the terms" of the November 23 deal.
The signing of the implementation mechanism of the initiative took place also in Riyadh under the auspices of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz.
Associated Press / November 26, 2011
SANAA, Yemen—Yemen scheduled early presidential elections for early next year on Saturday in line with a power-sharing deal aimed at ending a nine-month political crisis, according to the country's official news agency.
The agreement would make President Ali Abdullah Saleh the fourth dictator pushed from power this year by the Arab Spring uprisings, although it has been rejected by many protesters because it would grant the reviled leader immunity from prosecution and does not include far-reaching political changes like those brought about by the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
The U.S.-backed Gulf Arab proposal signed Wednesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh calls for Saleh to pass power to his deputy within 30 days, after a new government sworn in by the vice president passes a law protecting Saleh and his associates from prosecution. Presidential elections also were to be held within 90 days, well ahead of the original date in 2013.
It came after months of resistance by the leader of 33 years despite massive protests calling for him to step down. Saleh had agreed to sign the deal at least three previous times only to back out at the last minute.
Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said Saturday that the vote will be held on Feb. 21 and no party has the right to annul or change the decree, SABA reported. He made the announcement after Saleh gave him "the constitutional authorities to carry out dialogue with the parties that signed the Gulf initiative."
While it was welcomed by the U.S., which fears instability in the country that's home to one of the world's most active al-Qaida branches, the agreement has failed to end the mass protests that have rocked Sanaa and other cities since February.
Thousands took to the streets on Saturday to demand that Saleh face trial for allegations of corruption and the killing of hundreds of protesters as his security forces brutally tried to end the uprising against him.
The deal doesn't explicitly ban Saleh from the country's political life -- raising fears he could continue to play a political role.
Violence also continued, with Yemeni warplanes killing 80 anti-government tribesmen who overran part of a military camp in the Arhab region north of the capital.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said that warplanes and artillery had pounded the armed tribesmen for the past two days.
The number of deaths was not confirmed. But a soldier from Yemen's 63rd Brigade who fled the camp said tribesmen had overrun it several days ago. He spoke by telephone from Arhab, asking not to be identified for fear of government reprisal. The soldier said the tribesmen killed about 20 soldiers.
Yemen's opposition parties have nominated the head of their coalition to lead the first government after veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to quit in 90 days, a spokesman says.
Mohammed Basindawa, a former member of Saleh's ruling party, was chosen late on Friday to head a national unity government, Mohammed Qahtan, the spokesman of the opposition Common Forum said.
'His name will be presented today (Saturday) to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi' who is now the executive president according to the Gulf-brokered deal signed on Wednesday, he said.
Saleh signed the exit agreement in Riyadh after months of dodging domestic and international pressure to step down after 33 years in office.
According to the Gulf- and UN-sponsored roadmap, Saleh hands to Hadi 'all powers necessary for proceeding with the Gulf initiative and its implementation mechanism and for organising early elections within a 90-day period which begins immediately after the signing.'
Saleh remains as an honorary president during this period, while the opposition puts forward a candidate to head a national unity government.
Saleh on Friday, however, appeared to continue to perform his role, ordering from Riyadh investigations into the shooting on protests in Sanaa by loyalist gunmen - in what was seen as a breach of the deal.
'We give President Saleh two days to stop those acts that are in violation of the agreement. In this transition period, the country is to be run according to the Gulf plan and its execution mechanism,' said Qahtan.
Basindawa who was chosen to head the 'National Council for the Forces of the Peaceful Revolution' after it was formed in August, served in governments under Saleh several times, including as a foreign minister.
Born in Aden, the capital of former South Yemen, Basindawa quit Saleh's General People's Congress some 10 years ago, becoming an opponent but without joining an opposition party.
Friday, November 25, 2011
SANAA, Yemen November 25, 2011 (AP)
Heavy fighting between government forces and defected military troops shook the Yemeni capital early Friday, killing two people in what could signal the start of a power struggle just days after autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to end his 33-year rule.
The clashes pitted Central Security forces commanded by Saleh's nephew, Col. Yehia Saleh, against troops from the First Armored Division, headed by Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who defected and joined the protesters in March. The troops fired machine guns and mortars, some of which landed on civilian homes and scarred the facades of buildings.
A security official said one soldier from each side was killed before the fighting stopped around dawn. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
The two units have clashed in the past, but Friday's fighting, near the home of Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, was the first showdown between military units since Saleh signed a U.S.-backed proposal Wednesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Under the agreement, Saleh transferred power to his vice president, who is to serve as acting president and until early presidential elections within 90 days.
If the deal holds, Saleh would be the fourth dictator pushed from power this year by the Arab Spring uprisings.
But Saleh's spokesman, Ahmed al-Soufi, added further confusion to what exactly the agreement seeking to end the country's nine-month political crisis means, saying Friday that Saleh has not given up his "constitutional duties" and remains in power.
On Friday, tens of thousands of Yemenis returned to the streets across the country to reject the power-transfer deal and call for Saleh's trial for crimes ranging from corruption to lethal crackdowns on protests. Yemenis first took to the streets in late January, inspired by popular uprisings against dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and have faced harsh police action since. Hundreds have been killed.
The crisis has created a security vacuum across the country, leading to clashes between armed tribesmen and government troops in a number of areas. In the restive south, Yemen's active al-Qaida branch has taken advantage of the vacuum to overrun entire towns.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
DUBAI | Thu Nov 24, 2011
(Reuters) - After months of evasion, procrastination and defiance, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had one more surprise up his sleeve: he signed a Gulf accord which, on paper at least, stripped him of his powers.
Yemenis now turn to just how the deal will be implemented to secure the dismantling of the rule of the 69-year-old whose iron grip enmeshed his family, friends and allies in the nation's military, business and economy.
Ten months of political strife have already loosened state control over much of Yemen, allowing free rein to northern rebels, southern secessionists and al Qaeda, even as drastic shortages of water, fuel and jobs stalk its 24 million people.
The convulsions in this fractured Arabian Peninsula state that borders oil giant Saudi Arabia, have brought the impoverished country to the brink of civil war, causing deep concern in Riyadh and Washington.
One of the main obstacles to implementing a deal, diplomats say, is Saleh himself, who once compared his own 33-year balancing act to retain power to dancing on the heads of snakes.
"I fear there are so many gaps and that issues of implementation could spoil the whole thing," said Ghanem Nusseibeh, a UK-based analyst.
"It is the best the Yemenis could expect."
Many diplomats warn the pact that Saleh signed to appease his opponents and the big powers contains flaws that could be exploited to undermine its implementation at every stage.
Saleh is a clever operator who has survived many tussles with rivals, and skillfully used patronage to keep tribal and political backers loyal.
Any hopes the deal might bring peace were rattled just one day after its signature with at least five Yemenis killed by gunmen believed to be Saleh loyalists who attacked a protest demanding Saleh face trial. The deal provides him with immunity.
There are also no signs of the thousands of protesters on Sanaa's streets leaving their tents that have become their homes for the past 10 months.
Many are still angry that the Gulf-brokered deal signed by Saleh guarantees him immunity, as well as his sons and nephew who have controlled a nation where about 42 percent live on less than $2 a day.
Diplomats say the accord was only signed after intense pressure by the United States, Saudi Arabia and European states on Saleh and on opposition parties to reach a deal.
They say that Washington was keen to wrap up the situation in Yemen in an orderly manner before a potential messy exit for Saleh that could affect its regional ally and the world's number one oil exporter, Saudi Arabia.
The United States is also keen to resolve the crisis in Yemen while it grapples with other regional challenges, especially in Syria and Egypt, the diplomats say.
Continued mayhem in Yemen, sitting along a vital shipping strait, also raises risks for world oil supplies.
Although the agreement accords Saleh a ceremonial position as head of state with no powers, he still holds sway over the armed forces and the economy.
Even if he heads to the United States after handing over power, as he had told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon he would do to seek medical treatment, Saleh will remain leader of the long-ruling General People's Congress party.
The party will be a partner in the power-sharing government that will be set up with the opposition during an interim period ahead of a presidential election.
Apart from controlling the main branches of the security establishment, including the elite Republican Guards and domestic security services, Saleh's relatives also dominate the economy through public and private companies they run.
Under the accord, a military committee headed by the country's new ruler, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a former army officer respected by the opposition, will oversee restructuring of the armed forces.
But analysts are skeptical that such a committee will be able to remove top commanders such as Saleh's son, Ahmed, commander of the Republican Guards regarded by the United States as a bulwark against al Qaeda.
"Ahmed Saleh's presence at the helm of the Republican Guards is a continuation of the regime," said Ibrahim Sharqiyeh, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.
"Will the Republican Guards be ready to see Ahmed replaced? It remains to be seen."
Equally worrying to many is the fact that key players in the opposition, especially activists who had camped in downtown Sanaa and Taiz for months, are not happy with the accord that gives Saleh and close aides, including family members immunity.
"We did not go out to the street and offer sacrifices so Saleh and his relatives are accorded immunity from legal pursuit," said Fayez Ahmed, a 26-year-old demonstrator who had been camping at Sanaa's Change Square for months. "We want the killers to be tried."
Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which has long bank-rolled Saleh and some of his tribal opponents, has staked its reputation on the agreement when King Abdullah oversaw the signing ceremony in his palace in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia, which had endured three years of attacks by militants including veterans of the Afghan and Iraq wars on foreigners, security forces, members of the royal family and an oil facility, has worried that al Qaeda will exploit the chaos caused by protests to set roots in Yemen and recruit followers.
The group has seized control in parts of Abyan province, including the capital Zinjibar and the coastal city of Jaar, which is under complete control of militants allied to al Qaeda.
But analysts say the threat to the accord also comes from two other sworn enemies of Saleh -- a dissident general who broke away from the Yemeni army after the outbreak of the uprising in February and from the al-Ahmar tribal federation led by Sadeq al-Ahmar.
Reflecting the lack of trust that exists between Saleh and his opponents, Adel Amin wrote in a column posted on the opposition's sahwa website (sahwa-yemen.net) that the Yemeni president will find a way to spoil the accord.
"He may offer objections to the proposed prime minister or could use the restructuring of the army and the security to obstruct the agreement," Amin wrote.
"It cannot be ruled out that a man like Saleh, who has mastered deception ... comes back after the signing to put us in front of a new crisis of interpretations on how to implement the initiative and the steps to do that."
SANAA, Yemen — President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s agreement to step down failed to halt anti-government demonstrations or prevent violence Thursday as regime supporters killed five protesters demanding that the ousted leader be put on trial for crimes ranging from corruption to bloodshed during the current uprising.
Saleh signed the U.S.-backed power-transfer deal, brokered by neighboring countries, Wednesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh in exchange for immunity from prosecution. It sets in motion a number of changes designed to stop the uprising that has battered Yemen’s economy and caused a nationwide security lapse that al-Qaida linked militants have exploited to step up operations.
Saleh passed his presidential duties to his vice president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, effectively ending his 33-year rule. If the deal holds, he’ll be the fourth leader to lose power in the wave of Arab Spring uprisings this year, following longtime dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
In the coming days, the opposition is supposed to name a prime minister, who will be sworn in by Hadi. The prime minister will then form a national unity government, evenly divided between the opposition and the ruling party. Hadi also is to announce a date for presidential elections, to be held within 90 days.
Observers note that the deal does not include a number of Yemen’s biggest power brokers, including Saleh’s relatives who head elite security forces, powerful tribal chiefs and military commanders who have joined the protesters.
Many of the protesters, who have camped out in public square for months to call for sweeping democratic reforms, rejected the deal immediately, saying the opposition parties that agreed to it were compromised by their long association with Saleh.
Thousands took to the streets again Thursday in the capital Sanaa, the central city of Taiz and elsewhere, protesting the deal and calling for Saleh to be tried for charges of corruption and for the killing of protesters during the uprising.
They chanted “No immunity for the killer” and vowed to continue their protests.
Security forces and government supporters opened fire on Sanaa’s main protest camp Thursday, killing five protesters with live ammunition, said Gameela Abdullah, a medic at the local field hospital.
A video posted online by activists showed men in long robes and Arab head scarves firing assault rifles at protesters, who scramble for cover. Some throw rocks and carrying large pictures of Saleh.
“We’ll keep fighting until Saleh is tried for all the crimes he has committed against the people in his capacity as the head of the armed forces,” said activist Bushra al-Maqtari in Taiz, which has seen some of the most violent crackdowns on anti-regime protesters. Hundreds of demonstrators have been killed nationwide since January.
Abdullah Obal, a leader in the coalition that signed the deal, said the opposition intended to meet with protest leaders to address their demands.
“The agreement does not cancel the youth’s demands or go against them,” he said. “It is their right to protest.”
Some doubt that the deal marks the end of political life for Saleh, who has proved to be a wily politician and suggested in remarks after the signing ceremony that he could play a future political role in the country, along with his ruling party. He had agreed to sign the deal three times before, only to back away at the last minute.
Saleh had stubbornly clung to power despite nearly 10 months of huge street protests in which hundreds of people were killed by his security forces. At one point, Saleh’s palace mosque was bombed and he was treated in Saudi Arabia for severe burns.
“The signature is not what is important,” Saleh said after signing the agreement. “What is important is good intentions and dedication to serious, loyal work at true participation to rebuild what has been destroyed by the crisis during the last 10 months.”
International leaders who had long pushed for the deal applauded Saleh’s signature, many hoping it would help end a security breakdown that has allowed Yemen’s active al-Qaida branch to step up operations in the country’s weakly governed provinces.
President Barack Obama welcomed the decision, saying the U.S. would stand by the Yemeni people “as they embark on this historic transition.”
King Abdullah also praised Saleh, telling Yemenis the plan would “open a new page in your history” and lead to greater freedom and prosperity.
Italy’s foreign minister, Giulio Terzi, lauded the agreement and called for an end to violence.
“Now it is necessary that the accord is fully implemented and that all violence cease,” he said.
Three aid workers have been released after being held by armed insurgents for two days in southern Yemen.
The Frenchwoman and her two Yemeni colleagues were working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
They were abducted by insurgents from the Southern Movement in Lahej province on Tuesday.
The kidnappers had demanded the release of four prisoners held by the Yemeni authorities.
A local official said the insurgents had been assured that the four detainees would be released once the hostages were freed.
A spokesman for the Red Cross said that the three workers had now returned to their base in Aden.
The aid workers were on their way to distribute food at a camp for displaced people who have fled from another southern province, Abyan, where the army is battling Islamist militants.
The Southern Movement is demanding greater autonomy for south Yemen, which was formerly an independent country with its capital at Aden.
Yemeni tribesmen have repeatedly kidnapped foreigners to use as a way of getting concessions from the government. More than 200 have been seized over the past 15 years, with most being released unharmed.
Earlier this month, three French aid workers were freed after being held for over five months in the east of the country.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered a probe into deadly violence in Sana'a on Thursday, a day after he agreed to an Arab League plan that calls for him to relinquish power.
Earlier Thursday, witnesses said five people were killed after loyalists to Saleh opened fire on protesters who were upset over a provision in his power transfer deal that gives him immunity from prosecution.
The state-run SABA news agency says Saleh condemned the violence and expressed regret that "forces and elements" in the country oppose peace and stability.
On Wednesday, Saleh and opposition leaders signed a long-awaited agreement that calls for him to transfer power to vice president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The plan, brokered by the Arab League, also calls for the government to hold early presidential elections.
The agreement is designed to end months of anti-government protests that have left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.
Also, al-Qaida-linked militants have seized control of several parts of southern Yemen as the government has struggled to contain unrest in other regions.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah signed a deal on Wednesday to hand over his powers after 33 years in office which Saudi King Abdullah hailed as marking a "new page" in the impoverished country's history.
Live footage of the ceremony aired by Saudi state television showed Saleh ink the Gulf- and UN-brokered agreement in Riyadh's Al-Yamama royal palace watched over by members of the Yemeni opposition as well as King Abdullah and Gulf foreign ministers.
Representatives of Yemen's ruling party and the opposition also signed the deal which is intended to end 10 months of deadly violence.
Under the agreement, which Saleh had stalled for months in defiance of intense domestic and international pressure, the veteran leader will his hand powers to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi in return for immunity from prosecution for himself and his family, although he will remain honorary president for 90 days.
"Today a new page in your history begins," the Saudi king told the Yemeni delegations as they signed the deal.
DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a Gulf initiative on Wednesday to hand over power to his deputy as part of a proposal to end months of protests that have pushed the Arab country to the brink of civil war.
Saudi state television broadcast live images of Saleh signing the accord in the presence of Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef. Yemeni opposition officials signed the accord after Saleh.
The Associated Press Nov 23, 2011
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has told him he will travel to New York for medical treatment after signing an agreement to end his 33-year rule.
Ban told reporters Wednesday that he talked with Saleh by telephone, and would be happy to meet with him in New York. He provided no information about when Saleh planned to arrive in New York, nor what treatment he would be seeking.
Saleh's signature on an accord brokered by Yemen's powerful Gulf Arab allies would start a new chapter in the nine-month popular uprising that has shaken the Arab world's poorest country. Saleh has repeatedly agreed to sign the deal, only to back away at the last minute.
SANAA, Yemen - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh plans to sign a deal Wednesday in the Saudi capital that could mean the end of his 33-year rule, the U.N. envoy to Yemen said.
Saleh's signature on the Gulf-brokered accord — if he goes through with it — would start a new chapter in the nine-month popular uprising that has shaken the Arab world's poorest country. Since January, tens of thousands of Yemenis have protested in cities and towns across the nation, calling for democracy and the fall of Saleh's regime.
The uprising has led to a countrywide security collapse, with armed tribesmen battling security forces in different regions and al Qaeda-linked militants stepping up operations in the country's restive south.
For months, the U.S. and other world powers have tried to get Saleh to agree to a proposal sponsored by Yemen's powerful Gulf Arab allies to end the crisis.
Speaking to reporters in the Yemeni capital Wednesday, the U.N. Secretary General's special envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, said opposition and ruling parties agreed on a mechanism to carry out the plan and that Saleh would sign the deal at a ceremony in the Saudi capital Riyadh later in the day.
"The agreement is an important step for the people of Yemen to solve the political crisis in the country and move their country toward a better future," bin Omar said.
The plan calls for a power transfer to Saleh's vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, within 30 days and early presidential elections with in 90 days of the signing. It also calls for a two-year transition period in which a national unity government will amend the constitution, work to restore security and hold a national dialogue on the country's future.
The deal gives Saleh immunity from prosecution — contradicting one key demand of Yemen's opposition protesters.
Saleh has repeatedly agreed to sign the deal, only to back away at the last minute. This time, though, a signing appeared more likely since Saleh flew to Saudi Arabia early Wednesday before the announcement was made.
Yemeni state TV reported on Saleh's arrival in Riyadh and said Gulf Arab representatives who sponsored the agreement and European and American envoys would also attend the signing.
The U.N. envoy, bin Omar, praised Yemen's youth, saying the young people had "created the momentum" for change in the country and encouraging all "to invest in this historic opportunity."
Still, Saleh's signing is unlikely to appease the protesters on the streets who demand more sweeping political changes and who say Yemeni opposition parties that have approved the deal have been compromised by their longtime dealings with Saleh.
Saleh has clung to power despite the 9-month-old uprising, daily mass protests calling for his ouster and a June assassination attempt that left him badly wounded and forced him to travel to Saudi Arabia for more than three months of hospital treatment.
The unarmed protesters have held their ground with remarkable resilience, flocking to the streets of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities and towns to demand reforms and braving a violent crackdown by government forces that has killed hundreds.
But their uprising, inspired by other Arab revolts in the region that saw longtime rulers of Egypt and Tunisia go, has at times been hijacked by Yemen's two traditional powers — the tribes and the military — further deepening the country's turmoil.
Breakaway military units and tribal fighters have been battling in Sanaa with troops loyal to Saleh, in fighting that has escalated in recent months.
Security is particularly bad in southern Yemen, where al Qaeda militants — from one of the world's most active branches of the terror network — have taken control of entire towns, using the turmoil to strengthen their position.
Yemeni forces kill 6 al Qaeda-linked militants
An impoverished nation of some 25 million people, Yemen is of strategic value to the United States and its Gulf Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia. It sits close to the major Gulf oil fields and overlooks key shipping lanes in the Red and Arabian seas.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
by National Yemen
Sana'a, November 20, 2011
The Higher Council for the Peaceful Southern Movement has welcomed the initiative of Brigader Nasser Al-Nawbah, Chairman of the Higher National Committee for Independence. Al-Nawbah recently called on prominent political players of the southern movements such as the Power of Freedom and Independence, retired southern military men, and any other groups who have fought on the change squares calling to pursue freedom and independence for the south.
Al-Nahbaw called upon individuals in the Higher Council for Peaceful Southern Movement to present their new vision in forming a type of national solidarity in the south. Al-Nawbah suggested some names like National Front, National Union, or National Cooperative Council. From these names, he said, that people in the south can share in the vision that will lead to the success of the National Southern Alignment and the achievement of our people’s goals.
Al-Nawbah concluded his rallying call saying, “so that our people’s sacrifices in blood and imprisonment leads toward the achievement of freedom and independence for our land from the Arab Republic of Yemen.”
November 19, 2011
Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Saturday he would hand the country over to the military if he were to step down as demanded by the opposition.
“We… are ready to make sacrifices for the country. But you will always be there, even if we step down,” Saleh told loyalist troops, in statements carried by the official Saba news agency.
The news agency said Saleh made the remarks during an inspection of the Republican Guards, an elite army corps led by Saleh’s son Ahmed.