Monday, March 28, 2011

GCC, OIC assert keenness on Yemen's territorial integrity

RIYADH, March 28 (Saba) - Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) stated on Monday their keenness on Yemen's unity, stability and territorial integrity.

GCC and OIC said that in a joint statement issued by their General Secretariats in a meeting gathered the GCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah and the OIC counterpart Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

In the statement, GCC and OIC expressed their respects for the Yemeni people's will to safeguard the security and stability in Yemen.

Yemen's Saleh tried to get Saudis to kill rival: WikiLeaks

OSLO, Mar 28, 2011- Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to get Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, now a leading dissident officer, killed last year by tricking Saudi forces into bombing his headquarters, a Norwegian daily said Monday, quoting a leaked US cable.

"In the winter of 2010," Saudi fighter jets bombing Shiite rebellion targets in Yemen were directed to bomb a building that had been described as insurgent headquarters," the Aftenposten daily reported.

But the mission was aborted at the last minute when pilots realised they were about to bomb the headquarters of General Ahmar, Aftenposten explained, saying its information came from a cable from the US embassy in Riyadh.

The Norwegian daily of reference, which announced last year it had obtained all 250,000 US diplomatic cables whistleblowing website WikiLeaks had accessed, did not publish the cable's content directly on its website as it usually does.

It said General Ahmar was at the time "the half-brother, a close ally, and the greatest rival for the presidency" of President Saleh.

"By doing so, Saleh was probably trying to get rid of a potential rival," Aftenposten said.

The daily did not mention the date of the cable but said the document detailed a "secret" meeting between US diplomats and Saudi Arabian Vice Defence Minister Khaled Ben Sultan on February 6, 2010.

In a major blow to Saleh, General Ahmar, commander of the Northwest Military District which includes Yemeni capital Sanaa and the first armoured tank division, announced a week ago that he had joined the "revolution."

On Sunday he vowed to help bring about Saleh's overthrow.

He promised "to help the peaceful rebellion of youth succeed by every means possible and whatever the price has to be paid," in a statement read by his spokesman.

Saleh has been faced with a popular uprising since the end of January, calling for an end to his 32-year rule. Some 52 demonstrators were reported killed in a protest on March 18.

Source: (AFP)

United Nations humanitarian chief: Aid is needed now for Yemen

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

(New York, 28 March 2011): United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos expressed serious concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Following the recent political upheaval in Yemen, it is estimated that more than 82 people have died and hundreds have been injured. "I urge those involved to refrain from excessive violence and ensure the safety of the civilian population," Ms. Amos said.

"I am especially concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen because, even before the recent protests, the country was facing a humanitarian crisis due to protracted conflict in the north displacing 300,000 people, some of them multiple times," she said. "The recent fighting has again affected hundreds of people that have not recovered from earlier conflict," she added.

In addition, the country is facing acute water and food shortages. Some 31.5 percent of the population is food-insecure, and approximately 12 percent (or 2.7 million people) are severely food insecure, at a time when food prices, including that of wheat, have increased significantly.

Aid workers lack the capacity to respond to all potential needs, particularly as insecurity has caused some humanitarian agencies to relocate staff out of affected areas.

"The United Nations is discussing how to reach affected people with both the Government and the Al-Houtis, and I hope we will have an agreement on access soon," Ms. Amos said. "The prolonged and chronic suffering in the country means that humanitarian aid continues to be urgently needed."

Security sources blame al-Qaeda for deadly blast in Yemen

Mar 28, 2011

Sana'a - Security sources said that al-Qaeda militants were responsible for a deadly explosion in southern Yemen on Monday which killed at least 34 people.

The state-run news agency SABA did not give further details, but quoted unnamed security sources who blamed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for the attack.

At least 34 people were killed and 52 injured in the blast at a weapons factory in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, local and medical sources said.

There were three children among those killed, medics added.

The Al Arabiya broadcaster reported that there were 80 people killed in the blast.

The source said dozens of residents went to the factory a day after it was raided by suspected al-Qaeda militants.

The cause for the blast remained unclear.

On Sunday, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates told ABC that the most active and aggressive branch of al-Qaeda was AQAP, which operates out of Yemen.

'If that government collapses or is replaced by one that is dramatically more weak, then I think we'll face some additional challenges out of Yemen,' he said, referring to calls demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

'It's a real problem,' said Gates about a possible power vacuum in Yemen.

Source: M&C

Yemen Talks Stall


SANA'A, Mar 28, 2011- President Ali Abdullah Saleh has backed away from a deal struck over the weekend that would have him step down from power immediately but keep his relatives in charge of the country's elite counter-terrorism forces, according to Yemeni negotiators and people familiar with the situation.

The change in Mr. Saleh's position threatens a key demand by American and Saudi officials meant to curb the influence of al Qaeda in the country.

The president and his opponents, who include the nation's top military commander and an array of political parties and tribes, have been trying to forge a peaceful handover of power, amid burgeoning street protests against Mr. Saleh's rule. Mediated by the U.S. and British ambassadors, discussions were in the final stages Saturday when talks broke down amid personal insults and threats, people familiar with the situation said.

Increasing rancor between the president and Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, his former ally who is considered the nation's second most powerful political figure, threatens a quick solution to the crisis.

It also raises fresh concerns about al Qaeda cells active in Yemen taking advantage of the growing chaos to expand their reach and base in the impoverished and fractious nation.

Suspected al Qaeda gunmen killed seven government soldiers in a skirmish over the weekend in the southern Mareb province, according to government officials. On Friday, tribesmen from the southern province of Shebwa said they had taken control of 17 military bases abandoned by counterterrorism units belonging to the Central Security forces, which are commanded by President Saleh's nephew.

News of the attacks came amid what appears to be a serious breakdown in trust between Mr. Saleh and Gen. Ahmar, whom opposition forces have appointed their lead negotiator. The two men, who hail from the same tribe and village, together have run Yemen since the late 1970s.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Gen. Ahmar said the opposition had worked out a five-point plan early Saturday with the president that would have both him and Mr. Saleh resign from their posts, put a caretaker government led by the current prime minister in charge, but keep Mr. Saleh's son and nephews in their roles leading U.S.-trained and -financed counterterrorism units.

Eldest son Ahmed and nephew Yahya are among a handful of Saleh family members who are key liaisons with U.S. military and intelligence officials in the hunt for al Qaeda members in Yemen, including radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaqi.

The deal stalled, however, when Gen. Ahmar on Saturday delivered a fresh demand from the opposition—that Mr. Saleh go into exile after he resigns—sparking a backlash from the president, according to people familiar with the situation.

Gen. Ahmar said the president responded by calling him and threatening him with reprisals if he didn't surrender himself to forces still loyal to the president.

"We agreed yesterday with Saleh that he would step down and [his ally] Prime Minister Ali Mujawar would become president during a transition period. We agreed that the president's relatives would command [their units] for five months after he steps down for the sake of security in the country. But Saleh violated our threatening me and my men with attacks," Gen. Ahmar said in a telephone interview with The Journal.

A government official confirmed the details of the negotiations as well as the call between the president and Gen. Ahmar. The official said the president's reaction to fresh demands on him was "understandable" given the sensitivity of the talks.

"All negotiations are difficult, and this is negotiating Yemeni style," said the official. "The opposition has threatened the president's honor and the president needed to respond. He feels that his partners have gone back on their word and in a tribal society like Yemen's that is a serious insult."

In an interview with Arabic news channel Al Arabiya that aired on Sunday, Mr. Saleh lashed out at his opponents, saying that their demands on him were illegitimate and irrational.

He said the majority of the country still supported him, and that large crowds that gathered to hear him speak on Friday rivalled the numbers of the anti-government protesters who have camped out in the capital for more than six weeks.

"They are a minority," Mr. Saleh told Al Arabiya, referring to his political opponents. "They can organize a march of 20,000 people? I can get two or three million. How can a minority twist the arm of the majority?"

Two people familiar with the negotiations say that the breakdown of trust between Pres. Saleh and Gen. Ahmar is severe, and more robust international mediation would be necessary to save the talks. "It's unclear where the talks are going, if anywhere. The two men are in an unhealthy psychological state," said one person.

The streets of the capital San'a still bristled with tanks and armed soldiers on almost every major intersection, but bloodshed has remained largely at bay since a bloody crackdown on March 18 in which plainclothes security officers opened fire against unarmed demonstrators who have erected protest tents in a downtown square.

The U.S. and regional governments, especially Yemen's neighbor Saudi Arabia, have worried that the ongoing political crisis would disrupt counterterrorism operations and allow Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to expand. The more time without a political solution to the crisis also increases the probability of violence, or even civil war, Yemeni analysts say.

Source: The Wall Street Journal