Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gulf accord on Yemen to be inked Sunday: officials

May 19, 2011- (AFP)

SANAA — A Gulf-sponsored accord to end a bloody political dispute between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Yemen's opposition will be signed on Sunday, opposition and ruling party officials said.

"The signing will take place on Sunday in Sanaa," Sultan al-Barakani, the assistant secretary general of the ruling General People's Congress, said of an accord sponsored by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

"We have called the GCC secretary general and informed him that all the parties have agreed to sign, and have invited him to come to Sanaa," he added.

An opposition official who spoke on condition of anonymity also said that "the signing will take place on Sunday."

GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani flew out of Sanaa on Wednesday after sources close to the negotiations between the regime and opposition said the two sides again failed to ink a power-transfer accord.

According to the Gulf-brokered proposal as it was previously outlined, Saleh would quit office within 30 days in return for immunity from prosecution, before a government of national unity is formed and elections for a new president held after two months.

Yemeni political sources said that Saleh's change of heart over the accord followed intense pressure from Washington and various European capitals.

US President Barack Obama said in a speech on Thursday that Saleh "needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power."

Deadly protests calling for the departure of Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, have gripped the country since January.

Analysts: Turmoil in Yemen Benefiting al-Qaida

Meredith Buel | Washington May 18, 2011

U.S. intelligence officials believe al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is now the most significant terrorist threat to the United States, and analysts say the Yemen-based organization is benefiting from the violence and turmoil in that country.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was formed in 2009 with a merger of branches of the terrorist group in Saudi Arabia and Yemen and almost immediately began focusing attacks on the United States.

In December of that year, the group said it was responsible for an attempted bombing on a commercial airline flight to Detroit on Christmas Day.

In October 2010, a bomb plot was discovered when two packages of explosives were found on cargo planes bound for the United States. The packages were sent from Yemen.

Analyst Katherine Zimmerman specializes in Yemen at the American Enterprise Institute. She says the most dangerous situation for the United States comes from what al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has gained from the current unrest.

“Counterterrorism forces have moved from al-Qaida strongholds in Yemen into the capital to protect regime interests, such as the presidential palace and other key infrastructure. What this has done has increased the operating space that al-Qaida has in Yemen," said Zimmerman.

Instability, security

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace associate Christopher Boucek focuses on terrorism and stability issues in Yemen. He says al-Qaida individuals and cells in Yemen are planning attacks on the United States.

“Instability in Yemen is not something that is a far off scenario. It affects American domestic security. Instability and insecurity in Yemen is a domestic American security issue,” said Boucek.

Likelihood of attack

Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Edmund Hull also served as the acting coordinator for counterterrorism in the State Department and says al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is likely to launch another attack on the United States.

“And they have said that even in trying they succeed if they cause us to take yet more additional security burdens upon our shoulders. So they can win, even if they do not succeed 100 percent,” he said.

The terrorist group publishes an English-language magazine on the Internet that contains directions for making bombs and seeks to recruit local citizens to commit terrorist acts.

Analyst Zimmerman says the terrorist group seeks to recruit and train local citizens to commit terrorist acts. “Not only is it attempting to execute spectacular mass casualty attacks against the U.S. and American interests, but it is also trying to encourage would-be recruits to execute smaller scale attacks,” she said.

Christopher Boucek says the group is calling for many small attacks, which are less expensive and more difficult to detect. “So I think you see an organization that has an incredibly fast learning curve, is very opportunistic, increasingly lethal. I think the problem in Yemen looks smaller than it probably actually is,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on an unusual high-level visit to Yemen earlier this year, said the Obama administration has “rebalanced” America’s aid program so it is no longer tilted toward terrorism and security.

Clinton said nearly half of the $300 million program for this year is aimed at helping Yemen deal with declining oil resources and a severe water shortage.

Yemen opposition blames Saleh for Gulf plan failure

By Jamal al-Jaberi (AFP)

SANAA, May 19, 201 — Yemen's opposition blamed President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday for the failure of a Gulf plan aimed at ending a bloody political dispute, saying he would do "everything" to remain in power.

Saleh "foiled the initiative by refusing to sign it" on Wednesday, Yassin Saeed Noman, head of the opposition Common Forum, told AFP.

Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdullatif al-Zayani, flew out of Sanaa on Wednesday after sources close to the negotiations between the regime and opposition said the two sides again failed to ink the power transfer accord.

Saleh, in power since 1978, "has refused the peaceful choice and is ready to do everything to remain in power," said Noman.

"With this, the regime will have to face the people who will continue with their peaceful revolt and will continue to escalate, even if the regime uses violence against them," he said.

Conditions Saleh has set that he says will enable him to sign in his capacity as president, cannot be met, said another member of the Common Forum who requested anonymity.

According to the Gulf-brokered proposal, Saleh would quit office within 30 days, in return for immunity from prosecution, before a government of national unity is formed and elections for a new president held after two months.

Washington issued a fresh plea Wednesday for the deal to be inked.

US President Barack Obama's aide John Brennan called Saleh to urge him to sign and implement the agreement "so that Yemen is able to move forward immediately with its political transition," a White House statement said.

However, Saleh has called onto his loyalists to stage a rally in his support on Friday, as every week, in a move described by his opponents as a sign that the veteran ruler is still clinging to power.

Journalists were also invited to attend a military parade that will take place in Sanaa on Sunday to mark the 21st anniversary of the unity between the country's north and its formerly independent south.

South Yemen was independent from the 1967 British withdrawal from Aden until the region united with the north in 1990. The south seceded in 1994, sparking a short-lived civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.

As the protests, which began in January raged, rifts surfaced within Yemen's army. Pro-opposition troops led by dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar control the capital's northern and western regions, while troops loyal to Saleh control the rest of Sanaa.

Anti-regime protesters staged a massive rally in Taez, Yemen's second-largest city Thursday, carrying banners accusing Saleh and his ruling party of "manoeuvering".

In Sanaa, protesters at the University Square, dubbed "Change Square" after it became the epicentre of demonstrations in February, carried banners reading "no initiative, no dialogue, departure is the final decision".

"The initiative does not concern us," prominent activist Tawakul Karman told AFP. "We insist on completing our revolution to the end... (until) we overthrow Saleh."

"We will continue to protest despite our awareness that we could be killed or arrested. We are not afraid," said Karman.

But the protesters have expanded the field hospital they set up at the square and urged more doctors to volunteer, according to an AFP reporter.

The impoverished but strategic Arabian Peninsula country has been gripped by protests since late January calling for Saleh's ouster.

Security forces have mounted a deadly crackdown on the protests, leaving at least 180 people dead, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.