Wednesday, July 27, 2011

London asks Yemen's Saleh to step down

LONDON, July 27 (UPI) -- It's a critical time for Yemen, the British foreign secretary said Wednesday, and London supports a GCC deal calling for the country's president to step down.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh remains hospitalized in Saudi Arabia nearly two months after an attack on his presidential compound in Sanaa. Clinging to power for much of the year, Saleh has refused to sign a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council that calls for his resignation in exchange for immunity.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said following meetings with Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi in London that the GCC measure was the best option for a political settlement in the country.

It is vital that the process of transition starts as soon as possible and I urge President Saleh to agree this now without further delay to allow the handover of authority to begin," Hague said in a statement.

Hague said his government was concerned the political vacuum in Yemen could bring al-Qaida and other security concerns to the forefront.

"The continuation of the current deadlock is affecting the lives and potential livelihoods of all Yemenis," he said. "This is not a sustainable situation and early progress is essential."

EU tells Yemen to launch ‘credible’ transition plan


27 July 2011

BRUSSELS — Yemen must launch a ‘credible’ transition plan and all sides in the political crisis should reject violence, the EU’s chief diplomat said Wednesday after talks with the Yemeni foreign minister.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged the government to work with all parties in Yemen to ‘immediately take forward’ a political transition after six months of anti-government protests.

‘Individual and party differences must be set aside in favour of the broader interests of the Yemeni nation,’ Ashton said after talks in Brussels on Tuesday with Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al Kurbi.

A plan by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to cede power within 30 days in return for immunity from prosecution, paving the way for elections, is still the key point of reference for transition, she said.

‘I asked the foreign minister to transmit this message to the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is currently recuperating from a deplorable attack on his palace compound,’ Ashton said.

‘I have also made clear that the Yemeni people can no longer be subjected to the current political, economic and humanitarian crisis afflicting Yemen, which also has serious regional and international implications,’ she said.

Saleh has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia since early June for wounds sustained in a blast at his palace. Protesters have demanded the veteran leader’s ouster since January.

‘I urge all sides in Yemen to reject violence and show restraint. By activating a credible plan for transition, the government could unlock the potential for significant international assistance to Yemen,’ Ashton said.

American Embassy: Protesters have the Right to Demonstrate

By Fatik Al:Rodaini

Sana'a, July 27, 2011- The American embassy in Sana'a renewed in a statement posted on the internet its stance that peaceful protesters have the right to demonstrate and should be allowed to gather without fear of violent reprisal.

The statement came after the violence by Yemeni security forces toward protesters who gathered on Wednesday in front of the U.S. Embassy building demanding the ouster of Yemen's president Saleh's regime.

Yemen president won't give up power by force: official

By Samia Nakhoul

Wed Jul 27, 2011

(Reuters) - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who escaped an attempt on his life by opponents, will only cede power through the ballot box and the country will descend into civil war if he is forced from office, his foreign minister said.

A popular uprising against Saleh's 33-year rule, high profile defections, and an assassination attempt in June which left him with severe burns and forced him to undergo eight operations have all failed to persuade him to give up.

"President Saleh made this very clear. He repeatedly said he is ready to transfer power anytime, but through early elections, through the ballot box and by adhering to the constitution," Abubakr al-Qirbi told Reuters in an interview.

"Now the issue is for the ruling party and the opposition parties to agree on a date for early elections," he said.

Saleh, 70, has brought relative stability and unity to the impoverished tribal state, which is awash with weaponry and corruption and beset by separatism in the south, a Shi'ite uprising in the north and a growing al Qaeda presence.

When he first became North Yemen's president in 1978, Yemen had suffered two decades of civil war and violence, and the two presidents who preceded him had both been assassinated.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of foiled attacks by a wing of al Qaeda based in Yemen, have been involved in talks to end the crisis and avert a spread of anarchy that could give the global jihadist network more room to operate.

Qirbi said the timetable set for a transfer of power under a deal, brokered by Gulf states and Washington, was not realistic.


Under the agreement, Saleh and the opposition have 30 days to form a national unity government after which Saleh would resign and elections would follow 60 days later.

"This time schedule has proven to be difficult to implement ... Elections cannot take place in 60 days. Therefore, if President Saleh resigns after 30 days and no election can take place in 60 days we will run into a constitutional vacuum in the country," Qirbi said.

"The president is not scrapping the agreement. It is just the timetable for the implementation that need to be readdressed," he said.

The GCC mediated three deals with Yemeni opposition parties under which Saleh would step down and be spared prosecution for bloody crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters who took to the streets, emboldened by Egyptians and Tunisians who ousted their autocratic leaders.

Each time, Saleh backed out at the last minute.

Qirbi said his government was trying to start a dialogue with the opposition to agree on "a feasible and practical election date" under the supervision of international and regional observers.

He said six months of street fighting and political protests had cost the economy as much as $5 billion, scared away tourists and investors, and swollen budget deficits.

Some of Yemen's biggest losses are related to fuel in a country that relies on oil for 60 percent of its income. He said Yemen has had to import gasoline and diesel, at a high cost.

Damaged pipelines have also cut off an important source of income for the world's 32nd largest oil exporter and 16th biggest seller of liquefied natural gas.

"We had about three to four months stoppage of our oil exportation because of attacks on pipelines. As result we had to import a lot of gasoline and diesel."

"We are in a very difficult situation. We are trying to get out of it. The solution has to be a political and it has to be a Yemeni solution. Now we have to save the future of our country.

Even before the uprising, Yemen was in deep trouble. The government, reliant on foreign aid and dwindling oil revenue, was running out of cash.

Four out of 10 of the population live on less than $2 a day. Two thirds of Yemen's fast-growing population of 23 million people are under 24. Unemployment stands at around 40 percent.

The turmoil has also renewed fears Yemen could become a failed state on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia, which holds the world's biggest oil reserves.

Rivaling Pakistan and Afghanistan as an incubator and shelter for al Qaeda, Yemen shows signs of becoming a serious international threat.

Qirbi said al Qaeda was the main beneficiary from the chaos convulsing the country. It has mobilized its militants and tried to take control of the southern Abyan province, he added.

"The political crisis creates the right atmosphere for extremists and for al Qaeda to take advantage of," he added.

Qirbi said failing to reach a political agreement would be disastrous.

"There are many scenarios as to what will happen. The worst case scenario unfortunately maybe civil war, maybe fragmentation of the country," he said.

"I think the majority of people neither want civil war nor to see Yemen divided again, but this will depend really on wisdom prevailing amongst policymakers on both sides -- on the government side and the opposition side."

Yemeni Militants Demand Ransom for Missing Aid Workers

Sana'a, July 27, 2011- Al-Qaida-linked militants in Yemen are demanding a $12 million ransom for the release of three French aid workers who went missing in May.

Yemeni security officials and tribesmen revealed the demand on Wednesday.

The two women and one man disappeared in the eastern city of Sayoun, where they had been working with a French-based relief agency.

French and Yemen authorities previously said the aid workers were probably kidnapped but had no definite word on their status.

The reports of a ransom demand come a day after the head of al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen vowed loyalty to Osama bin Laden's successor and promised to keep fighting against Sana'a's Western-allied government.

In a 10-minute audio message posted on Islamist websites Tuesday, Nasser al-Wahishi said his organization officially recognizes Ayman al-Zawahiri as al-Qaida's new global leader.

The terror group proclaimed the 60-year-old Egyptian its chieftain following bin Laden's death in a U.S. military raid on his Pakistani compound in May.

Wahishi said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula will fight until it overthrows the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

He also said he supports the anti-government protests in Yemen that seek to oust Mr. Saleh after 33 years in power.

The United States says the Yemeni branch is al-Qaida's most active. The group has been linked to several attempted attacks on U.S. targets.

Washington fears al-Qaida-linked militants will take advantage of Yemen's anti-government unrest to expand their haven in the country and plot attacks against the West.