By Jamal al-Jabiri (AFP) July 16, 2011
SANAA — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been receiving treatment for blast wounds in Saudi Arabia since early June, will return home "soon," Deputy Information Minister Abdo al-Janadi said Saturday.
"The president is in good health. He will return to Yemen soon, but is awaiting the decision of his doctors," Janadi told a news conference, without specifying a date.
Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, was wounded in a bomb attack on his palace in Sanaa on June 3, and was admitted to hospital in Saudi Arabia the following day. Demonstrators have since January been calling for him to quit office.
He appeared on television on July 7 for the first time since the attack, covered in bandages.
Three days later, he was shown on television receiving John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser. Saleh was in better shape than in his earlier appearance, although burns were still visible on his face.
The White House said Brennan had called on Saleh during the meeting to sign a transition plan sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that would see him cede power within 30 days in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Since Saleh's departure to Saudi Arabia, Yemeni Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has assumed power but has not been designated the de facto head of state.
The opposition, meanwhile, has called for the creation of an interim council, to prevent Saleh's return.
On Saturday, a group of young anti-Saleh protesters who have camped out in a square in Sanaa since February announced the creation of a 17-member "presidential council."
The council "is charged with leading the country during a transition period not to exceed nine months and with forming a government of technocrats," Tawakul Karman, one of the leaders of the protest movement against Saleh, told a news conference.
The council groups notable personalities from different opposition groups, including Ali Nasser Mohammed, the ex-president of formerly independent South Yemen, former premier Haidar Abu Bakr al-Attas, and Abdullah al-Hakimi, an exiled long-time opponent of Saleh.
"We decided to announce the formation of the presidential council in the wake of rumours that Saleh will return on Sunday or Monday," Hashem al-Ibara, an official in a youth opposition coalition, told AFP.
The formation of the council does not appear to be supported by some other Saleh opponents, including the parliamentary opposition, which inked the GCC-sponsored transition plan that Saleh has so far refused to sign.