Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Saleh to look at restarting Yemeni peace plan

Aug 10, 2011

RIYADH (Reuters) - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed to look at restarting a Gulf Arab initiative on solving the country's crisis and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power, a Yemeni government official said Wednesday.

The official said Saleh had met members of Yemen's ruling party in Riyadh, where he has been receiving medical treatment since being badly injured in an assassination attempt in June.

Yemen has been sliding toward civil war during six months of protests demanding Saleh's overthrow. A transition plan brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been moribund since Saleh last avoided signing it in May.

"He agreed with them to explore ways of restarting the GCC initiative and of creating a mechanism that will ensure a peaceful transfer of power," the official told Reuters after Saleh's meeting with the ruling party members.

Saleh had agreed to work with the main opposition parties, other Yemeni groups, international bodies and concerned countries to finds ways to end the crisis, the official said.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of foiled attacks from al Qaeda's Yemen-based branch and wary of chaos that could embolden the group, have tried to ease Saleh from office with the GCC plan, which Saleh has agreed to three times, only to back out of signing it at the last minute.

The president emerged Sunday from the Riyadh hospital where he had been receiving treatment since a bomb attack in his palace on June 3 left him with severe burns and other injuries.

The United States has urged Saleh not to return home from Saudi Arabia, diplomatic sources said.

After debating Yemen Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council called for "an inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led process of political transition that meets the needs and aspirations of the Yemeni people for change."

Report: Yemeni forces and tribesmen reach a truce in Taez

Aug 10, 2011

Cairo - A truce has been reached between Yemen's presidential guards and armed tribes backing the pro-democracy protesters in Taez, the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite channel said Wednesday.

Taez, Yemen's second largest city has witnessed sporadic clashes between the two sides in recent weeks.

The agreement, which was reached between representatives of the local authorities, tribes and protesters, stipulates that the presidential guards loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, and armed tribesmen will withdraw from the streets, allowing the deployment of police.

The tribes armed militias were deployed in Taez in June to protect protesters from attacks by troops loyal to Saleh, who has been in Saudi Arabia for treatment after being badly burned in a bomb attack in early June.

The attack on the embattled president came after millions of Yemenis took to the streets in February onwards to demand Saleh's ouster.

Around 400 people have been killed in the government crackdown against the pro-democracy protesters since the uprising started, human rights advocates said.

This is the second truce to be reached between the two sides. A similar truce collapsed in early August.

One opposition armed tribesman killed in clashes with army forces in northern Yemen

August 10, 2011

At least one opposition-backed tribesman was killed and several others were injured in clashes between Yemeni army forces and opposition rebels in northeast Sanaa province on Wednesday, eyewitnesses told Xinhua.

They said Republican Guards continued on Wednesday to shell the hideouts of the opposition militants, who seek to achieve the protesters' demands of ousting President Ali Abdullah Saleh, killing at least one rebel and injuring several others in Arhab district.

The opposition coalition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) media Al- Sahwa issued on Wednesday a statistic, showing the ongoing clashes with Republican Guards troops in Arhab have killed 100 opposition tribesmen and injured over 200 since May.

It said that clashes forced 1,500 families to flee the area.

The Defense Ministry said earlier the opposition militants were trying to capture the Samaa military base, the Sanaa International Airport and northern entrances of Sanaa after they sided with the anti-government protesters.

Arhab, about 60 km northeast of Sanaa, has witnessed sporadic clashes between the Republican Guards and opposition tribal fighters supported by defected army troops since late May.

Yemen opposition welcomes U.N. call for power transfer

August 10, 2011

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Yemen's top opposition movement welcomed the U.N. Security Council's call for a transfer of power, an initiative that could end the political instability in the poverty-ridden Arab nation.

Mohammed Qahtan, the spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties, said on Wednesday that the international stance must not be different from the will of the people who are seeking democracy and reforms.

"The U.N. and our international friends must make positive and quick steps towards the Yemeni revolution and ensure change in the manner Yemenis see necessary," said Qahtan.

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday urged Yemeni parties "to move forward urgently (in) an inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led process of political transition that meets the needs and aspirations of the Yemeni people for change."

It voiced concerns over the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Yemen. They were "deeply concerned at the worsening security situation, including the threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."

Yemen has endured months of protests and militant violence.

Protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh began in January after the successful uprising in Tunisia that triggered region-wide reform movements.

The protests led to open street battles after Saleh balked at a deal with the opposition that would have eased him out of office within a month.

The government has also faced off with Islamic militants, including the al Qaeda wing in Yemen, regarded by analysts as a potent and dangerous group.

Saleh was badly injured last June in an assassination attempt on the presidential palace amid a tribal revolt against his 32-year-old rule and was taken to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

He had been discharged from a military hospital, but it was not clear when he would return to Yemen.

Saleh's vice president, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has been running the government since then.

The opposition has vowed to prevent Saleh from returning.

The JMP has announced the formation of a national council on August 17 to represent all the factions in the Yemeni political arena. That's a step experts see as a beginning to the formation of an independent transitional government.

"The JMP has been patient with the slow international reaction towards the Yemeni revolution and is not willing to stay quiet any longer," said Ali Abdul Jabbar, director of the Sana'a based Dar Ashraf Research Center.

He said that the JMP is currently under immense pressure from the pro-democracy youth to cut all channels of dialogue with the regime.

"The youth have been patient and ignored for six months. The JMP saw the international community had enough time to demand change but failed."

But Mohammed Nagi Shaef, head of Bakeel confederation, Yemen's biggest tribe, and senior member of the ruling General People Congress party, said that Yemeni tribes will not allow the international community to force Saleh into early elections or withdraw from power.

He said that tribal leaders have called on all Saleh's supporters nationwide to come to the capital and protest in front of the presidential palace, demanding that the international community allow Saleh back in Yemen.

"President Saleh's term ends in 2013, and we will not allow him to leave before that period at any cost. This is what the Yemeni constitution says and this is what will happen," said Shaef.

However, Hameed al-Ahmar, the president of the opposition dialogue committee, said world powers should listen to the voice of the people to ensure safety and stability in the region.

The United Nations, the United States and the European Union "are clearly standing with the will of the Yemeni people for change. This is what Yemenis were waiting for all along," said al-Ahmar.

"This is what we expected from the U.S. and the international community and we hope it continues," al-Ahmar said.

Civil war fears chill traumatised Yemen neighbourhood

Wed Aug 10, 2011

By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - In Sanaa's battle-scarred Hasaba neighbourhood, the distant chanting of protesters demanding the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is punctuated by gunfire nearby, reminding residents that Yemen's torment may be far from over.

"We can't take much more of this," said Arafat Ahmed, shaking his head as he stuffed bags with bread in his tiny bakery. "Life has come to a halt. It's clear that armed confrontation is the only option until the crisis is resolved."

Bloody street fighting rocked Hasaba, home to Sadeq al-Ahmar, a tribal foe of Saleh, in May after the president reneged again on a Gulf-brokered plan to end his 33 years in power.

The mortar and machinegun clashes subsided after a bomb blast wounded Saleh in his presidential compound, forcing him to seek treatment in Saudi Arabia, where he is recuperating.

Now, with troops again manning checkpoints around the capital, the crackle of shooting in the crumbling alleyways of Hasaba -- and outbreaks of fighting elsewhere in a country awash with guns -- have reignited fears of civil war.

For seven months, tens of thousands of Yemenis, including those in a protest camp not far from Hasaba, have demonstrated against Saleh. But shootouts between government forces and anti-Saleh gunmen are increasingly marring the peaceful protests.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest state and host to an ambitious al Qaeda branch, borders oil giant Saudi Arabia. Gulf and Western powers fear it could collapse into a failed state on the doorstep of some of the world's largest oil reserves.


Fighting is on the rise in at least five parts of this rugged, mountainous country on the southern rim of the Arabian Peninsula. More and more armed men roam the streets of Yemeni cities as suspicions and frustrations multiply.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, wary of turmoil that could give al Qaeda more room to operate, have been pressing Saleh for months to accept a transition plan brokered by Yemen's wealthier neighbours in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Saleh has vowed to return to Yemen, even as U.S. officials urge him to stay away, deepening a political stalemate. Many Yemenis worry that it is too late to stave off a descent into bloodshed that would only compound their misery.

"I think the political solution has been eroded in favour of fighting. But even the fighting will not end the battle," said Yemeni analyst Ali Seif Hassan, citing the standoff in Sanaa between government forces and military units commanded Ali Mohsen, a powerful general who has defected to the opposition.

"When Yemen's capital becomes divided like this, it means Yemen will be broken into more than one entity," he said.

A similar confrontation between pro-Saleh forces and opposition tribesmen has turned Taiz, 200 km (120 miles) south of Sanaa, into another tense and divided city.

Fighting has already forced tens of thousands of Yemenis to flee their homes. Some are from villages shelled during battles between the army and opposition tribesmen. Thousands more have escaped from southern towns engulfed in clashes between troops and suspected al Qaeda militants and other Islamist fighters.


Hasaba residents are bracing for the worst. Many have piled sandbags outside their already shell-pocked homes.

At the nearby protest camp, some still believe in peaceful change but fear that violence could eclipse their struggle.

"We still hope to achieve our demands peacefully, but if we can't, it raises the threat of war," said leftist activist Samia al-Aghbari, sitting outside the rows of protest tents, her frowning face framed by a bright pink veil.

Desperation is gripping many Yemenis as fuel shortages and soaring prices overwhelm a country where a third of the people suffer chronic hunger and nearly half live on $2 a day or less.

Some residents, frustrated by their own politicians, are also turning their anger on foreign powers they feel have not put enough pressure on the government to reach a solution.

"If Saudi Arabia or America wanted Saleh to go they would have done it," complained Sanaa shopkeeper Yahya Musallah. "The situation could be finished in less than a month. But they keep waiting and the war will come before they intervene."