Monday, May 16, 2011

Yemen protesters defy security forces with new march

Sana'a, May 16, 2011 - Tens of thousands of protesters defied Yemen's security forces Monday by marching through the streets of several cities, calling on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

The protesters, who had previously been restrained by warnings from government officials, rallied in the northern province of Saada and in the southern Aden, a day after a soldier was killed and another injured in the city of Zunjubar.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts aimed at finding a solution to the crisis appeared on the brink of collapse after diplomatic sources suggested that talks between the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdullatif Al-Zayani, and the Yemeni opposition and ruling party may be suspended.

Saleh, president for 32 years, has refused to quit, despite the unrest that has gripped the country for almost four months.

President Saleh Sets New Condition to Sign the GCC initiative

By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, May 16, 2011- Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh laid down a new condition in order to sign on the GCC initiative to salvage the current crisis in Yemen.

The Saudi newspaper Al-Madeena mentioned that President Saleh handed over 15 names of his opponents to Abdel Latif Al-Zayyani, the head of GCC in order to sign in the GCC proposal.

Informed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said that President Saleh asked the Yemeni opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties before he signs the proposal to acknowledge the current Supreme Commission For Elections & Referendum in which it will organize the upcoming presidential elections after two months of signing the GCC proposal. ''If the opposition coalition has the right to protest against President Saleh in the streets, President Saleh has the same right to stay in power until his term end in 2013,'' the informed sources added.

Yesterday, the ruling General People's Congress party proposed a mechanism to implement the initiative calling for timeframes to address the south and Saada issues and ending the protests and sit-ins before Saleh resigns.

The proposal was revealed earlier this month when the ruling party said that the initiative terms should be implemented in sequence.

On Friday, Qatar withdrew from the initiative, justifying the move due to the delays and stalling of President Saleh to finalize it.

Under the GCC proposal, Saleh will resign in a month since reaching a final agreement with the opposition in return for immunity from prosecution granted to him and officials in his regime after leaving office.

It also called for forming a national unity government from the ruling and opposition parties.

The youth-led protesters in the squares of change and freedom in many of the Yemeni cities rejected any deal not ensuring an immediate, unconditional resignation of Saleh.

Meantime, the antigovernment protesters said they will continue their escalation plan and that next Tuesday they will control key public buildings in various cities.

In the last few weeks, the security forces and the government supporters stepped up the crackdown on them, leaving tens killed and thousands injured.

Father of bin Laden’s wife rebuffed union at first

Amal Abdul-Fattah married bin Laden at 18, before 9/11

SANAA - May 15, 2011

The Yemeni father of Osama bin Laden’s youngest wife, wounded in a U.S. raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, said he initially rebuffed a matchmaker’s proposal that his daughter marry bin Laden, before blessing their union.

Ahmed Abdul-Fattah al-Saada said they were married in 1999, well before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and that all he knew about bin Laden’s politics then was that he had backed insurgents fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Saada told Reuters it took several requests before he allowed his daughter Amal, one of 17 children, to travel to Afghanistan to marry bin Laden when she was 18 years old and he was in his early 40s.

“My daughter was Osama bin Laden’s wife, nothing more, and she had no relation to the al-Qaida organization. I am confident of her innocence,” he told Reuters in an interview in his modest one-storey home in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, adding that he would like to see her returned home from Pakistan.

“We are not in favour of bin Laden’s actions and the al-Qaida organization. We believe in coexistence between people.”

Yemen, bin Laden’s ancestral homeland, is home to an active regional arm of al-Qaida that claimed responsibility for a foiled 2009 attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound plane. It was also blamed for bombs found in cargo en route to the U.S. in 2010.

Militants bombed the U.S. Navy warship Cole in the port of Aden in 2000. Two years later an al-Qaida attack damaged the French supertanker Limburg in the Gulf of Aden.

Many of those who trained in al-Qaida’s camps in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks came from Yemen.

Saada said his daughter came into contact with bin Laden’s circle as a teenager attending an Islamic religious school where she was a student of the wife of Rashad Mohammed Saeed, whom he described as an aide to the militant leader.

He said he did not receive any money from Saudi-born bin Laden for the marriage.


“Rashad asked his wife to nominate a girl to marry bin Laden because he wanted a Yemeni wife. The teacher selected my daughter,” he said, adding that the man initially told him a Pakistani businessman wanted his daughter’s hand.

“I refused at first and insisted on knowing who this person was. After that they said that he was Osama bin Laden, from a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

He later relented because his daughter backed the idea: “She stuck to her view and told me she wanted to marry him, and I have not imposed a husband on any of my daughters. So I agreed.”

Saada said he had never met bin Laden in person and that his daughter travelled to Afghanistan for the wedding ceremony accompanied by her sister and brother-in-law, who had fought there, and her teacher. He said her travel companions stayed on for a month to make sure she was settling in well. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he lost all contact with his daughter, now 29, last speaking to her after the birth of her first child, a girl named Safia.

“We did not know until now where she was or how she was living or how many children she had,” he said. “We had been planning for her mother and one of her brothers to visit her but the September events thwarted this plan.”

U.S. authorities in Pakistan have interviewed three of bin Laden’s widows, including Amal and two Saudi wives, but gathered little new information from them, U.S. officials said.

Amal was reported to have earlier told Pakistani interrogators the family had lived for five years in the compound where bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces.

“We are not worried about the Americans interrogating her because she is just the wife of Osama bin Laden, and she and her children have no link to what he did. But I strongly reject handing to the American side this Yemeni citizen. She needs to return to her country.”

Saada said his family had met the Yemeni foreign minister, who promised to help try to get his daughter and her children repatriated. Pakistan has said it will repatriate bin Laden’s widows and their children. “When I go to the mosque at prayer time, I call on God to return her to us,” Saada said. “I hope they are given the chance to return to Yemen to begin a new life far from violence and being pursued.”

Yemen Tourism to Fall After Growing 28% Last Year, Saba Reports

By Vivian Salama -

Sana'a, May 16, 2011- Yemen likely will experience significant declines in tourism this year after three months of anti-government protests, Saba said, citing a report by the country’s Tourism Ministry.

Tourism revenue grew 28 percent in 2010 to almost $1.2 billion, the state-run news agency said today.

The number of tourists arriving last rose 32 percent last year compared with 2007 to almost 1.25 million, with foreign tourists comprising 52 percent of the total, Saba said.

CSOs : What happening in Yemen is political crisis

SANA'A, May 16 (Saba)- Coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) and trade unions confirmed on Monday that what is happening in Yemen is a political crisis and not a revolution.

This came in a letter handed over by a youth march organized by the coalition of the CSOs in the capital Sana'a to the U.S. ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein, in which they urged the international community to deal with Yemen according to its characteristics and find solutions for its crisis.

In their letter, they called on the international organizations to investigate the credibility of the events in Yemen, noting that what is going on is shedding of fake bloods to provoke the Arab and Western public opinion.

They affirmed in their letter that these events have formed psychological and living pressure on the Yemeni people.

Moreover, the marchers gave the U.S. ambassador a copy of the documented violations against rights and freedoms by the opposition parties.

The participants in the march, who gathered in front of the U.S. embassy's gate, raised up pro-democracy and pro- constitutional legitimacy signs, warning of any coup on the constitutional legitimacy.

They warned of involving youth and young people in conflict with their brothers in the security services and armed forces through pushing youth to break into and vandalize government offices and service facilities .

They held instigators and provocateurs the criminal and political responsibility for results of these confrontations.