Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yemen protesters vow to stay in Sanaa square

By Hammoud Mounassar

SANAA, Apr 12, 2011- Anti-regime protesters camped at a Sanaa square vow to stay put despite the mediation efforts of Gulf neighbours. "Sorry, Gulf countries, but we reject your initiative," their banner reads.

The protesters, camped at a square outside Sanaa University since February 21, have rejected any dialogue with Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who says he is ready for a "peaceful and constitutional" transfer of power.

"We refuse any dialogue with the assailant and the tyrant," says activist Mohammed Ibrahim, from the Youth for Change coalition of protest groups that has led demonstrations since late January.

"We will not leave this place when dialogue begins."

Foreign ministers of the Gulf Arab monarchies have urged Saleh, in power since 1978, to ensure a peaceful transition of power to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and a national unity government led by the opposition.

Protesters have rejected the proposal, saying they wanted the fall of Saleh's entire regime and for the Yemeni strongman to stand trial rather than to be granted immunity along with his powerful sons.

Saleh has accepted in principle the initiative of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council but without spelling out clearly whether or when he would step down.

He has so far insisted on overseeing any transition, fearful of being dumped out of office like his ally, Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted on February 11 following mass demonstrations.

On the other side of the fence, the protesters are unimpressed.

"We appreciate the initiative of our brothers in the Gulf but it does not meet our demands. There will be no dialogue until after Saleh's departure," says Abdel Malek al-Yusfi, a doctor who has joined the demonstrators.

Opposition groups in parliament have kept reserved, apparently fearful of the reaction of protesters whose ranks have suffered more than 125 deaths in clashes with Saleh's security forces.

A leading activist from the Youth for Change, Adel al-Rabyi, on Tuesday told AFP: "We reject this initiative even if the parliamentary opposition agrees. Our only demand is the immediate departure of President Saleh."

Many students have been carrying the flag of Qatar, a GCC member which has angered the Yemeni regime by urging Saleh to step down, in a move slammed by Sanaa as a "blatant interference in Yemeni affairs."

Thousands of people demonstrated on the streets surrounding the university square late on Monday, chanting: "No dialogue, no dialogue, (Saleh's) departure is the solution."

The anti-Saleh protesters have also distributed leaflets calling for a two-hour strike on Wednesday to step up "pressure against the corrupt regime and accelerate its fall."

On Tuesday, massive demonstrations took place in Taez and Ibb, south of Sanaa, at which protesters chanted slogans rejecting the Gulf initiative, local residents said.

In Yemen's southern capital of Aden, protesters who have staged a sit-in at five different squares across the port city are also adamant that nothing short of Saleh's departure will resolve the crisis.

Yemenis demonstrate against Gulf mediation deal

SANAA, Apr 12, 2011- (AP) Tens of thousands of Yemenis demonstrated across the country on Tuesday against a mediation proposal by neighboring Gulf nations because it offers the president immunity from prosecution.

Protesters in the capital Sanaa carried flowers to give to security forces and wore signs saying they were ready to die as they repeated their two-month-old call for Yemen's president to leave office after 32 years.

Yemen has been wracked by protests since mid-February demanding Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign because of the country's lack of freedoms and extreme poverty. In the ensuing crackdown, 120 people have been killed.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council offered its own proposal Sunday to end the unrest and called on Saleh to transfer power to his deputy as part of a deal with the opposition.

The deal did not, however, specify a timeframe and included immunity from prosecution for Saleh and his family.

"The initiative does not clearly mention the immediate departure of the head of the regime and it did not touch on the fate of his relatives who are at the top military and security agencies that continue killing the peaceful protesters," said the anti-government Civil Alliance of the Youth Revolution in a statement.

The alliance, which includes 30 youth groups, said the GCC proposals were an attempt to abort the peaceful revolution.

Protesters carried banners reading "after bloodshed, Saleh should be tried" and "you (Saleh) will not escape unpunished." Hundreds of army and security officers in uniform also took part in Tuesday's demonstration.

Lt. Col. Mohammed al-Khollani said the participation of him and his fellow officers was to "tell our military colleagues that your right place is among the revolutionaries and the revolution."

Similar demonstrations were also held in the cities of Taiz, Aden, Ibb, Hadramawt, Saada and Thamar.

In response, the president's office issued a statement saying Saleh "has repeatedly expressed no reservations to the peaceful and smooth transfer of power within the constitution," which would allow him to remain in office until the 2013 elections — an option long rejected by protesters.

Pro-government groups went beyond the president's carefully worded remarks, however, and in a joint statement rejected the GCC offer as a "flagrant interference in Yemen's internal issues."

According to the official SABA news agency, the statement denounced the GCC and said their move "goes against the will of the Yemeni people."

Saudi in Yemen declines by 80%

By Abdul-Aziz Oudah

Sana'a, Apr 12, 2011- Saudi Arabian investment projects in Yemen has dropped by 80% in some sectors since the outbreak of political unrest earlier this year.

Council Abdullah Murai, chairman of the Saudi-Yemeni Business Council, said that Saudi investment in Yemen totals US$4-billion. He said that Saudi business assets in Yemen had not been affected Murai said that the assets of Saud investment in Yemen were not damaged but operations have been affected. In particular, the tourism sector’s investment dropped by 80%. “Tourism almost stopped completely.

Many foreign experts who manage production lines at factories and who oversee construction of cement factories owned by Saudis have left. This impacts on operations,” he said.

Half of Saudi investment in Yemen is focused on tourism real estate while investment in food and industry sectors total US$1.5-billion and US$500-million is invested in other sectors.

«There are Gulf real estate projects in Yemen worth US$800-million but it stalled despite the fact that 70% of it has been completed,» said Murai. Abdullah Bugshan, deputy chairman of the Saudi-Yemeni Business Council, said that Saudi investments in Yemen did not face any risks though. The investment decline was a result of political instability and not direct threats on Saudi businesses.

«Risks are only during the loading and exporting of goods while assets remain untouched. These investments are concentrated in the industrial sectors in a number of Yemeni cities such as Sana›a, Aden and Marib,» said Bugshan. Saudi investor Omar Babiker said that Saudi investments and projects in Yemen did not record any damage so far.

«Saudi investments in Sana'a and Aden are still safe and were not affected by these events,» he said. Official sources in Yemen said that the government budget deficit could rise to US$4-billion by the end of this year and it is expected to decline public revenues as a result of slowing the movement of trade and investment during the past three months.

Arab League welcomes GCC initiative to overcome Yemen crisis

CAIRO, April 12 (Saba) –The Arab League has announced its support to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)'s initiative to reach a peaceful solution to the current crisis in Yemen.

The general secretariat of the Arab League renewed, in a statement released on Monday, its position calling for respecting the principle of peaceful expression and to not use violence against peaceful legitimate demands of Arab people and their right to claim freedom, reform, development, democratic change and social justice.

The Arab League considered such demands as legitimate ones and must be respected.

Thousands of Yemenis protest against mediation deal offering president prosecution immunity

By Associated Press, Tuesday, April 12,

SANAA, Yemen — Tens of thousands of Yemenis are demonstrating in major cities across the country rejecting a mediation proposal by neighboring Gulf countries because it does not provide for trying the president.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council called on Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday to step down as part of a deal with the opponents demanding his ouster after 32 years.

The deal, however, did not specify a timeframe for the transfer of power to his deputy and included immunity from prosecution for him and his family.

Protesters held banners read “after bloodshed, Saleh should be tried” and “you (Saleh) will not escape unpunished.”

Hundreds of army and security officers in uniform, who sided with the protesters, took part in Tuesday’s demonstration.