Saturday, July 16, 2011

Yemen president to return home ''soon''

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.

Attacks on oil sites push Yemen's economy to brink

Country is grappling with power blackouts, rising food prices, fuel shortages

July 16, 2011

* By Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post

Sana'a: Over months of political turmoil, attacks on electricity plants and oil pipelines have left Yemen's economy on the edge of collapse, with the most damaging strike carried out in retaliation for a US counterterrorism raid.

Against a backdrop of street protests and military clashes, the country is grappling with electricity blackouts, rising food prices, and fuel shortages so dire that ordinary Yemenis can spend days in lines for gasoline.

In March, tribesmen blew up the main pipeline in Marib province, the legendary birthplace of the Queen of Sheba and home to roughly half of Yemen's oil reserves. The attack was carried out by a powerful tribal leader, Ali Al Shabwani, whose son was killed in a US airstrike in May 2010.

The pipeline helps funnel crude to the nation's main oil terminal in the southern port city of Aden for export and to be refined into gasoline. With Yemen bogged down in a popular uprising, the pipeline remains ruptured, with Shabwani and his heavily armed tribesmen refusing to allow the government access to the site until he gets justice for the airstrike, Yemeni officials said. Around Sana'a, a sprawling, dun-coloured capital nestled among jagged mountains, the consequences are apparent, including water shortages, high transportation costs and soaring food prices.

Suffering people

Forty per cent of the nation's population lives on less than $2 a day. Lines stretch for miles at gas stations that sell fuel at government-subsidised prices. On the black market, fuel costs three times as much. At some gas stations, gunfights have erupted.

"The leader has no right to do this," said Yahya Saleh Mohammad, 27, an accountant in Sana'a. He had been waiting in line for gas for two days in his green SUV; he was still a mile from the gas station, a wait that he estimated would take one more day.

"Yes, [Shabwani] has suffered from the airstrike, but how can he make all the people suffer?" he said. Many restaurants and stores are shuttered. Beggars have multiplied. At night, large portions of Sana'a are enveloped in darkness; electricity is available only for a few hours a day. The attacks on power plants and pipelines have continued, carried out from both sides of a widening political divide.

"Initially, these were anti-government tribes who wanted to place pressure on the regime," said Adil Abdul Gani, an official in the Electricity Ministry. "Now, however, they are pro-government ones attacking the plants because they want to show that the state cannot function without Ali Abdullah Saleh," the longtime president. The contributing role of the US airstrike in the fuel shortage is an indication of the growing fragility of Yemen's economy during the five-month-old revolt.

It also highlights the potential for US policies to have harmful, if unintended, consequences in this politically brittle nation, where Washington has stepped up counterterrorism activities in recent months, with plans for the CIA to work closely with the US Joint Special Operations Command in carrying out attacks with armed unmanned aircraft.

Many Yemenis also view the economic crisis through the prism of politics, blaming the government or the opposition for their woes.

That, many analysts and diplomats fear, could spawn more unrest; rising unemployment and poverty could drive disaffected youths toward militancy at a time when Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other groups are trying to take advantage of Yemen's political vacuum.

Rising poverty

"Everybody is lost," said Saif Al Asali, a former fin-ance minister. "And the politicians on both sides don't seem to care what happens to the people." Saleh's supporters say the Joint Meeting Parties, a coalition of six opposition groups, is attacking the electricity plants as well as blocking roads to prevent trucks from hauling oil to cities and plants.

"We know these are terrorist groups with links to the JMP," said Abdul Basat Al Kumaim, an official in the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

"They know they can't take power democratically, so they want to steal the power through destructive actions. They want to show that the government is not able to regain control," Hisham Sharaf Abdullah, the minister of industry and trade, said.

Official: UAE to donate 3m. barrels oil to Yemen



SANAA - The United Arab Emirates has pledged 3 million barrels of oil to Yemen, which faces a fuel crisis due to attacks on a pipeline during widespread political unrest, a Yemeni deputy minister said on Saturday.

Deputy Information Minister Abdo al-Janadi, speaking to reporters, did not give details about the delivery of the oil from the UAE, the world's third-largest crude exporter.

Saudi Arabia last month donated 3 million barrels of crude to Yemen, its impoverished neighbor, and several deliveries have already been made to a refinery in the southern port city of Aden to help ease fuel shortages.

A blast on the small, non-OPEC producer's main pipeline in March, for which angry tribesmen were suspected, has stopped the flow of crude to the refinery.

Yemen has repaired Maarib pipeline, embassy says

WASHINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) - Yemen has repaired its main oil pipeline in the Maarib province, which had been shut since a mid-March attack by tribesmen, and oil began to flow Friday night, the Yemeni Embassy in Washington said in a statement.

Yemen protesters set up transitional council

Sat Jul 16, 2011

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni protesters formed a transitional council of opposition figures on Saturday to lead efforts to try to force President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.

Youth groups, which have been at the forefront of more than five months of protests against Saleh's three decade rule, told a news conference that the 17 member council would include former Yemeni President Ali Nasser Mohammed and leaders of several opposition groups, including exiles.

They named General Abdullah Ali Aleiwa, a former defence minister, as their choice for armed forces commander.

It was not immediately clear whether the new council would win support from a coalition of mainstream opposition parties also seeking the overthrow of Saleh. They have also called for a transitional body.

Saleh, who is in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment following an assassination attempt in June, has backed out three times from a Gulf-brokered plan to ease him from power.

Saudi Arabia, a conservative Muslim absolute monarchy, does not want to see people power bring political change on its borders. It has long been Saleh's main financial backer, and Saleh may not stand down until Riyadh demands it.

Separately, a Yemeni deputy minister said on Saturday that the United Arab Emirates had pledged 3 million barrels of oil to Yemen, which faces a fuel crisis due to attacks on a pipeline during the widespread political unrest.