Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yemeni opposition shuns GCC deal

SANAA, Yemen, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- A deal that gives the Yemeni president immunity in exchange for his resignation isn't acceptable anymore, a member of the opposition said.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia more than three months after he was gravely wounded in an attack on his presidential compound in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.

He's faced international and domestic pressure to stand down for most of the year. He's repeatedly rejected a plan brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council that offers him immunity in exchange for his resignation.

Mohamed Basendwa, head of the newly formed National Yemeni Council for the Revolution, said the GCC proposal wasn't good enough.

He was quoted by the Yemen Post as saying it was "ridiculous" to offer Saleh immunity given the alleged crimes committed against the people.

Basendwa added the coming days were pivotal for revolutionary groups in Yemen. Saleh could get protection if he immediately resigns, the opposition leader claimed. Pressure on the Yemeni president is expected to increase shortly, he added.

The people "will bring down the regime through peaceful ways, not violence, no matter what weapons the regime use against us," he added.

Yemen’s Islamic militias, defected army attack village near Sana’a International Airport

Mohammed al-Kibsi

Sep 6, 2011 -

Militias of the Islah party Yemen’s branch of the Islamic brotherhood and the defected army lead by General Ali Mohsen launched a missile and artillery offensive the village of Bait al-Theeb in Arhab district, near Sana’a International Airport, on Tuesday, said a local source in Arhab district.

the source said that the militias of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen (Reform Party) and the First Armored Division, led by dissident Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar bombed houses in the village of Beit al-Theeb using Katyusha rockets and mortar shells in retaliation for the villagers who appeared on the screen of Yemen’s setline TV. and revealed the truth of what is happening in their area and expressed attitudes that reject the plans of terrorist and disruptive to those criminal elements.

The source said that the radical Islamic militia launched, last night, Katyusha rockets at houses and launched mortar shells at the village during the afternoon prayers which resulted in damage of the residents houses and injured a number of them.

Road map for electing new president for Yemen delayed

By: Nasser Arrabyee
Sep 6, 2011
The Yemeni opposition insists on resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh before any talks with the ruling party about a Saudi-led Gulf plan to transfer power and elect a new President for Yemen.
The US,EU, and UN still support the Gulf plan which includes four main points agreed almost by all parties as a road map. Saleh has to call for early elections to held at the end of this year, and transfers all his powers to his deputy. The third and fourth is to form a unity government chaired by the opposition, and to form a military committee to restructure the army.
Earlier this month, President Saleh called for electing a new president according to the Yemeni constitution. From the Saudi capital Riyadh where he is finishing treatments from injuries he suffered in a failed assassination attempt early last June,President Saleh authorized his party to talk with the opposition about a mechanism to implement the Gulf plan and elect a new president.
On Tuesday September 6th,2011,the top authority of the ruling party discussed the mechanism of power transition which has the support of all local,regional and international players. Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansor Hadi, who is also the secretary general of the ruling party briefed the top officials on the consultations he made with all parties to implement the plan.
On the ground, however, tension remains high as the opposition supporters keep threatening to use force and violence to end the rule of Saleh.
While Saleh supporters keep refusing any early elections because Saleh is the legitimate president until September 20th, 2013.
The rising tension because of these two conflicting views result sometimes deaths and injuries of people from both sides in small battles here in the capital and many other places.
The UK ambassador to Sana'a Jonathan Wilks, said in a statement sent to media on Tuesday that violence is not a solution.
"What Yemen urgently needs now is a political solution, and violence would not solve the problems," Wilks said.
He said the political settlement should be based on the Gulf plan and the road map suggested by the UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Bin Omar.
The British ambassador also advised the independent young protesters to choose a small group of them to present them in the local, regional and international talks.
Earlier in the week, the opposition retracted a previous call for violence and using weapons for ending the 33-year rule of President Saleh.
“We refuse violence in all its forms, and any call for violence would not represent us,” said an official statement issued Monday by the Islamist-led opposition coalition, which locally known as Joint Meeting Parties (JMPs).
The step came few days after leaders of the JMPs threatened to use military force to help the opposition supporters who demand the ouster of Saleh and to defeat Saleh’s supporters who demand dialogue.
For instance, last week, the defected general Ali Muhsen who supports the 8-month anti-Saleh protests, threatened to topple President Saleh by force. “We know that the revolution needs a military interference, and we will do that,” said Muhsen in press statements.
Also, the chairman of the failed opposition council Mohammed Ba Sendaw described supporters of Saleh as “traitors and hypocrites”.
The tension remains high in the capital Sana’a as people fear of an explosion of the situation anytime because of irresponsible and fiery statements they hear in media.
For only one day, the government troops prevented most of the people from entering the capital Sana’a in an attempt to prevent tribesmen who may help opposition supporters in case war erupts inside the city.
The republican guards, the main forces loyal to Saleh, which control all entrances of Sana’a, try to prevent armed opposition tribesmen who wish to enter the city to fight with the opposition protesters who seem to be turning to violent.
Earlier, the ruling party accused the opposition parties of preparing for a bloody military action after defected general threatened to use the Libyan style for ending the revolution.
“There are adventurous leaders seeking to commit a massacre either from among those left in the squares or of the citizens,” the ruling party website quoted an unnamed official as saying.
“Those adventurous leaders think that bloodshed will restore the vitality they lost by withdrawal of protesters from the squares,” added the statement.
In their weekly rally of Friday September 2nd, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in the capital Sana’a and other cities, to demand use of military action to end their 8-month long struggle to topple the defiant President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They called the step "Revolutionary Escalation"
One of the Islamist leaders said in the Friday’s rally the protests should move from squares to neighborhoods of the cities. His call was a similar to another Islamist leader who said earlier in the year the protesters should march forward to the “bed rooms”.
The two calls angered a lot of Yemenis causing an increase of Saleh’s supporters.
On the same Friday, however, hundreds of thousands of Saleh’s supporters also took to the streets to refuse any military action and demand dialogue.
Thousands of protesters known as “Assomud Youth” who belong to Al Houthi rebels withdrew from the Sana’a square ‘Change Square’.
The step was widely welcomed by the residents in 20 street close to the old university. The 20 Street became free for movement and traffic after Assomud left with their tents. Local residents became very happy to have their street back to normal after about mor than seven months of noise.
Assomud Youth, known also as Houthis, hate the defected general Ali Muhsen who led six sporadic wars against them in the northern province of Sa’ada over the years 2004-2010.
Soldiers of the defected general Ali Muhen replaced the Houthis in the 20 Street starting from September 1st.

Yemen ruling party delays vote on power transfer plan

Tue Sep 6, 2011
SANAA (Reuters) - Leading members of Yemen's ruling party delayed Tuesday an anticipated vote to approve a modified Gulf-brokered power transition plan which aims to pull the impoverished country out of its bloody political deadlock.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in Saudi Arabia for treatment after suffering severe injuries in a bomb attack, has faced the biggest challenge to his 33-year rule as a mass pro-democracy movement drags into its seventh month.
Sporadic, bloody clashes have erupted across the country as a stalemate drags on and inflammatory rhetoric from both sides has increased in recent days. Tensions are high in the capital Sanaa although both sides are wary of renewed fighting.
"There is a great danger of further agitation," said Abbd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, vice president and acting leader in Saleh's absence, according to state news agency Saba.
Hadi said the party meeting would continue Wednesday.
The United States and neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia, wary of rising turmoil that could give more room for al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing to operate, have pushed for Saleh to accept a power transfer plan by the Gulf Cooperation Council. He has backed out of inking the deal on three separate occasions.
After members of his party pushed for the plan's time frame to be modified, opposition delegates, a United Nations delegate and Vice President Hadi agreed to modify the deal.
The new "operational mechanism" for the Gulf plan requires Saleh to transfer his powers to the vice president, Hadi, after signing the deal but gives him three months to formally step down, as opposed to 30 days, at which point there will be elections and the opposition will form a unity government.
The interim government, which will govern a two-year transition period, would retain Hadi as interim president. The government would use the time to prepare a new constitution and hold a dialogue with insurgent groups such as the Shi'ite rebels in the north and the separatists in the south.
Unlike the original Gulf plan, the new mechanism requires a restructuring of the military within three months of Saleh signing the deal.
Currently Saleh's family has a strong hold on leadership of the armed forces. His son Ahmed Ali Saleh, who the opposition worries is being groomed to inherit the presidency, heads the elite Republican Guard.
Saleh gave the green light for his party to accept the modifications to the Gulf plan in a speech last month. But one of the participants Tuesday told Reuters that Saleh's General People's Congress party was still divided over the modifications.
Many participants refused to attend the meeting and some who attended urged participants to vote against the changes.
Time may be running short as tensions run high among Yemen's 23 million people, half of whom are armed. Some opposition figures, such as defected top general Ali Mohsen, have warned in recent statements they will fight back if provoked by government forces.
The government has accused the pro-opposition Al-Ahmar clan of trying to incite protesters to spark violence.
Tuesday, the military loosened its grip around Sanaa after sealing off the city for several days out of concern pro-opposition tribesmen might mass in the capital, where tens of thousands camp out daily in protest against Saleh's rule.

Yemen: 8 months into the revolution and counting

Sana'a, September 6, 2011- Yemen’s popular uprising started on the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian’s revolution, in a movement now know as the “Arab Spring”. Just as Egyptians were celebrated the ouster of their dictator, Hosni Mubarak, following weeks of mass protests, Yemenis gathered in solidarity near the Egyptian Embassy, wanting to express their joy.

The World watched amused, as only a few hundred men turned up, not understanding that this handful would turn into millions.

February 2011 was to mark the beginning of the Yemeni Revolution. From the shores of Aden to the northern mountains of Yemen, an entire nation rose against the Saleh, determined to put an end to their decades’ long rule.

The Youth Movement

Very much like its Egyptian and Tunisian counterpart, Yemen’s revolution started off as a movement, a popular uprising with no other aim than to oust it regime. And if indeed the revolutionaries called for democracy, it was the idea they were after rather than its political aspect.

With no leader and no political agenda, what the press dubbed the Youth Movement, took to the streets of Yemen clamming for freedom and demanding the immediate departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Protesters very quickly set up their headquarter at the University, renaming its square, “Change Square”. The area was soon transformed into a camping site, with tents sprouting everywhere.

From this point on, the Youth attempted to organize itself, looking for some outside support in a bid to strengthen its ranks, hoping that this show of force would deter the government from holding on to power any longer.

But as protesters marched their way through Sana’a, Taiz and Hodeidah, they were met by a rainstorm of bullets. Water cannons and gas canisters were launched at the crowds as they chanted “Peaceful, peaceful”, snipers were seen aiming at unarmed protesters. Taiz probably bore the worst of the government’s fury as Republican Guards were ordered to destroy the protester’s camp, killing some 200 men.

For weeks, Yemen bled. Then a shift occurred in the Revolution as other actors came into play.

The Political Opposition

Yemen’s political class was quick to recognize the power that protesters wielded as they saw cracks appear in the State apparatus. Aware that they could very well “miss the train” if they did not participate, politicians on all sides of the opposition voiced their support of the revolution, siding with the revolutionaries.

It is about this time, in March, that Yemen saw most of its diplomats, military officers and parliamentarians jump ship and defect from the regime. Most importantly, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Yemen’s most powerful military man and long standing ally of the regime, famously cut his ties with Saleh, denouncing his dictatorship.

Yemen’s political class then decided that although many of them had different views, often ideologically at odds with each other they stood a better chance at ousting the regime if they stood united. The Joint Party Meeting, known as the JMP or Opposition was born.

However, this political involvement did nothing but fragmentize the Youth Movement into political blocks, in essence weakening what started as a united popular movement.

“Change Square” became a perfect example of this division, on one side was al-Islah’s Youth led by Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar and Sheikh Abdel-Mageed al-Zindani, a well-known cleric and alleged al-Qaeda supporter; on the other, stood the Independent Youth, itself cut down to various groups.

Unable to convene on one joint course of action, the revolution started to lose some its weight as the regime saw weakness in its hesitation.

The Youth Movement often also accused the JMP of having no popular mandate to negotiate on its behalf with Saleh’s government. To this day, the Youth refute the GCC proposal despite the JMP members having agreed to it back in May.

The Tribes

And if things were not complicated enough, the tribes got involved. It is important to understand Yemen’s intricate social and political structure in order to get a sense on things.

Being the millennia old country that it is, Yemen has remained entrenched in its tribal past, where Sheikhs are considered kings within their territories. President Saleh himself had had to ensure the tribes’ loyalty as he knew they held the key to the country’ stability.

But most importantly here, one needs to understand that when a tribe member is being threatened or worse killed, the whole tribe will demand reparation, often using violence as an incentive.

As protesters were being slaughtered in the squares, the tribes stepped in as to defend their own against the attacker, not willing to see their blood being spilled freely.

Everything changed when Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar, leader of the Hasheed Confederation of tribes and probably Yemen’s most powerful man after president Saleh announced that he would defend the revolutionaries.

It is because he intervened that the government ordered the attack of his stronghold in Hasaba,a northern district of the capital, Sana’a. The government knows all to well that the Sheikh commands an army powerful enough to be a real threat, especially since he’s being backed up by defected General Mohsen.

So while protesters held their banners of peace, the tribes became their shields, brandishing their weapons against the state apparatus.

The Status Quo

The attack on the presidential palace in June brought the revolution to almost a complete halt. With president Saleh away in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the revolutionaries lost their footing, unsure what to do.

Political analysts actually claimed that Saleh’s presidency was saved by his departure. As he was recovering in the Kingdom his legitimacy as president was somewhat shielded.

Yemen has been stuck in this limbo for over 3 months, with the Opposition talking of “peaceful escalation” and the al-Ahmar warning of an armed conflict if the regime refused to budge, the country is forever waiting.

President Saleh’s TV appearances and his conflicted statements only made matters worse, throwing a blanket of darkness over an already complicated situation.

As the regime continues to maintain that a change in government could only take place through elections, while affirming that it is willing to negotiate within the parameters of the Constitution, both sides are gearing up for an armed conflict.

With Yemen being on the verge of humanitarian and economic crisis of vast amplitude, politicians and statesmen alike are letting the country disintegrate.

Source: Yemen Post

Yemen denies French ambassador departure

SANA'A, Sep. 06 (Saba) - Yemen denied on Tuesday reports of Suhail Channel that French ambassador to Yemen has departed the country due to harassments.

An official source in the Foreign Ministry made clear that he left Yemen on Sunday, 7/8/2011, in an ordinary vacation.

The French diplomat will return to Yemen to exercise his diplomatic duties, the official said.

Tanks roll as Yemen's political crisis deepens

September 6, 2011

THREE months after the forced medical leave of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a leadership stalemate in Yemen threatens to degenerate into open confrontation between Saleh loyalists and opponents.

The elite Republican Guard troops, commanded by Ahmed, the eldest son of Mr Saleh, had reinforced their presence this week and deployed tanks and missiles on the hills overlooking Sanaa, witnesses said yesterday.

Soldiers loyal to dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, fewer and less well armed, have fortified their positions in areas that they control in the city, mainly around the University Square, renamed Change Square by protesters camped there.

Armed civilians have been sighted on both sides of Zubair Street, which now divides Sanaa between the areas controlled by government forces and that held by the opposition.

"The regime rejects a political solution and could use other options. But the military option would be a mistake," said Yassin Saeed Noman, leader of the Common Forum, which groups parliamentary opposition parties.

Mr Saleh was flown to Riyadh on board a Saudi medical aircraft after he was wounded in a bomb blast attack on his Sanaa compound on June 3. He is recovering in the Saudi capital, and has vowed to return soon.

Despite protests demanding his ousting since January, Mr Saleh has refused to sign a deal brokered by Gulf monarchies for a peaceful transition of power.

The plan provides for the formation of a national unity government led by the opposition while Mr Saleh would hand power to his Vice-President, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi. Mr Saleh would resign a month later in return for immunity against prosecution, including for his family, but he has refused to hand over any powers to his deputy.

Britain's ambassador to Yemen, Jonathan Wilks, urged both sides to begin talks based on the Gulf plan and a UN-proposed deal. "What Yemen needs is a peaceful political settlement . . . violence is not a solution to any of Yemen's problems," he said on the embassy website.

"The priority should be for all sides to be more active in negotiating a political settlement based on the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) initiative and the roadmap for implementation of political transition developed by UN envoy Jamal Benomar."