Sunday, October 9, 2011

President Saleh meets parliamentarians

SANA’A, Oct. 09 (Saba)- President Ali Abdullah Saleh has held a meeting with parliamentarians who came to congratulate him on the anniversaries of the Yemeni revolutions; the 49th anniversary of the 26 September Revolution and the 48th anniversary of the 14 October Revolution, the 44th anniversary of the Independence Day, and also on his return to the homeland after medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

The following speech was delivered by President Saleh in his meeting with members of the parliament and the Shoura Council in Sana’a.

Dear members of the Parliament and the Shoura Council, congratulations on the Eid al-Fitr and the 49th anniversary of the September Revolution. I would like first to salute the steadfastness of our official institutions and the civil society organizations in the face of the big conspiracy against the homeland over the past nine months. Our Yemeni people have continued to stand fast. They are strong strugglers. Neither Tunisia nor Egypt and Libya, or any other Arab country has stood fast as our Yemeni people represented in their official institutions and the civil society organizations.

The conspiracy is a big one and the size of the conspiracy is big against this great homeland, the homeland of September and October. We have caused ourselves a problem on 22 May 1990 when we resorted to political and party pluralism. This is a problem both on the internal and external levels. No one has accepted this. Even internally, pluralism is show and go. If this was in my interest, then it is a political and party pluralism, which must be adopted, but if it does not serve my goal, then it is falsehood and slander. This is the situation that we have been suffering from since 22 May.

The conspiracy was not strong, but it escalated over nine months. The conspiracy is big. When they say the president and the family regime, this is a targeting of a political system. How many sons does the president have? How many members in the president's family? How many brothers and grandsons does the president have in the authority? Where are the other 22 million people?

They are deceiving people without knowing that the people have developed, become educated, and have known their goals. The targeting of the president at the Al-Nahdayn Mosque was not a targeting of his person, but this was a targeting of the homeland, principles, and values.

What happened over the past nine months? There is no security, sustained development, or services, and unemployment has increased. This has paralysed development and political and cultural activity in the homeland because they have fabricated this crisis. The crisis was fabricated, and consequently, this has paralysed development, services, and political and social activity. By political here I mean both internally and externally. All the big powers and other powers care for their interests. It is true that we are a democratic and pluralistic country, but follow pluralism. It cares for its interests and not for pluralism, press freedom, for establishing civil society organizations, or the free opinions at the parliament and the Shura Council the mouths of whose members are not muffled. He only cares for his own interests.

Among what is being said, before I return, I received a letter from a big state, in which it said that we advise you not to return to the homeland for your own interest first, for Yemen's interests second, and for our interests third. Where should you go then? I am not a transit president who carries a briefcase. First, I have not been an agent and I am not an agent. I do not receive a salary or a budget from an Arab country or a friendly state. This is out of the question. However, I embraced the principles of the September and October revolutions and 22 May.

I embrace the principles, values, and aspirations of the Yemeni people. As for the Yemeni people's aspirations, since the eruption of their revolution or before the revolution, all Yemenis waged struggle for the sake of restoring their unity. This was the main goal. God be praised, this unity was achieved. This is a great achievement. Therefore, there is envy here, providing internal envy is stronger than the external envy. Many of them have contributed to restoring unity, but because unity was not achieved on their hands, they went back to plot against unity. This is because they have failed completely, whether they are in the north or the south; they are of the same kind. They then resumed their plotting with the plotters to foil this project.

Frankly speaking, since the 1993 elections, plotting has been increasing. It has reached its peak over the past nine months. This plotting was not against me. As for me, I was dead for about 15 days. I had an extra lifetime since the eruption of the revolution. I did not care about death. I do not fear death and I am not annoyed by death because I should have died earlier after the eruption of the revolution, providing life and death are in the hand of Allah, and not in our hands. This is in the hand of the Merciful and Compassionate. We do not fear death, but we fear for the homeland and we are concerned over what is taking place in the homeland.

Let us say that you have bombed the presidential mosque and some people were killed or wounded, but why did you shut down power for the citizens? Why did you blow off the oil pipeline? Why did you attack the military camps in Yafi? Why did you attack the Presidential Guard camp? Why did you attack the Presidential Guard camp in Al-Sam’a? Why did you practice highway robbery? Why did you loot trains? Why did you occupy the Al-Sittin Square? Why a number of people were killed from Hashid and in Taiz and all governorates? Why do you attack citizens in al-Hasabah? Why did you kick them out of their houses? Is this the project? Is this the departure of the former reactionary regime and you are the advocates of the new regime? This is the new project; we will expel you from your houses, close your schools, and deprive you of treatment at your hospitals.

This is the project of these dark forces. I am speaking clearly; the Sanaa university and other universities and institutes are closed. This is the project. I am not speaking out of prejudice because of the injury I and my comrade politicians, particularly struggler Abdul-Aziz Abdul-Ghani as well as many others have sustained.

When I returned from Riyadh I told you that I will not return to retaliate or to bear grudges. I told you that I am carrying an olive branch and a peace dove for the Yemeni people, for anyone who understands this message. They should have understood this message, which was addressed to the people, providing they are a part of the people. They are not the people and we are not the people. They are not the entire people and they are not the entire people. We are all a part of this homeland. Therefore, this message should have been understood; namely, how we should discuss the olive branch and the peace dove with the president.

There is a political organization called the General People's Congress. We know that you mean the president and the GPC. You have talked in your places and during your meetings and said that you will eradicate the GPC and its leaders in the same way the Ba'ath Party was eradicated in Iraq. We will begin gradually with the president and his family. We do not want to use this language. We want to resort to the peace dove and the olive branch. You have closed roads, but what the people and the citizens in neighbourhoods have to do with this? The entire university and al-Hasabah neighbourhoods are paralysed. People cannot go to school, hospitals, or universities. They cannot move because of terrorism. Those who used to hear about terrorism were wondering about the al-Qaeda organization. They used to ask about the description of the al-Qaeda, do they have beards, shaved, wearing trousers. They were wondering about this organization. Come now and go to the al-Zubayri street and the Kentucky roundabout, or al-Hasabah to see how terrorism looks like. Go to the university neighbourhood to see terrorism there. We do not seek authority.

I want to tell the dear brothers in the parliament and the Shura Council that I do not seek authority. I have been trying to get rid of it for more than three years. I wanted to get rid of it in 2006. To say that I was forced to nominate myself is true. However, this is not because the Yemeni people have no men, no, they have men who are more competent, stronger, and braver than me. However, circumstances were not ripe because the people could not believe that the president would get rid of presidency and that this news is unlike any other news. The people have then prepared themselves to elect a president of the state.

Since that day, things were escalating to disturb civil peace and security, not in Sana’a only, but in all governorates, in Taiz, Aden, and Abyan. One of those who rebelled against law and order, who is also a coupist who became mad and has lost his mind, called the military commander in Abyan to tell him to hand Abyan over to the rebels and we will withdraw as al-Qaeda. Where is the US intelligence, which preoccupied us day and night with the issue of monitoring al-Qaeda? Monitor its cells who they are, and who are behind it. This is the situation.

I want first to greet the steadfastness of the members of the Parliament who stood fast and stood firm on their feet, the members of the Shura Council, and the state institutions. How beautiful this crisis is because it has filtered things and refined minerals for us; gold, silver, zinc, and in all colours. It has refined things completely. By God, we have not paid you overtime money, bribed you, paid money to anyone, or promoted anyone. I understand that during the 112 days, which I spent in Riyadh, the acting President was Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi. He has not promoted anyone, paid money to anyone, bribed anyone. He was enforcing law and order. Since you do not want Ali Abdullah Saleh, then why you did not cooperate with Hadi? Why you have shut power down for Abdo Rabbo Hadi? Why did you kidnap citizens? Why did you explode the situation in Abyan? Why did you attack police stations in Aden? Why did you attack the police and security forces in Taiz? Why did you attack the rescue police vehicles in Sumarah? Why? This is the question. Why don't you stick to what you say about the unjust dictator? I would accept all the qualities you have listed. However, for 112 day and Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi is an acting president, why did not you win him to reassure the Yemeni people that if this man holds the reins of power, we will help him because our problem was with the first man. This is to teach you leadership and the art of leadership! Why did not you secure the al-Sittin street? Why did you close roads? Why did you kill innocent people? Why did you kidnap the son of the Taiz governor? Why did you kidnap the son of al-Mutarrib? Why did you kidnap this and that? Why did you loot the Public Prosecution? Why did you loot the headquarters of the Public Prosecution in which there were seized weapons? This is looting then! Why did you loot gold shops in the Hayil street? Is this your future project for this homeland? Is destruction your slogan?

We do not want power. I reject power and I will reject it within the coming days. I will relinquish it. However, there are men who can hold power. There are men who were true to their covenant with God, whether they are civilians or military, who will have control of the homeland. It is impossible for these men to destroy the homeland. I walk with my head in my hand. I cannot walk in al-Hasabah because there is no way. Is this the civilized project? Is it entrenchment and highway robbery? Introduce yourselves to the Yemeni in a gentle way. Introduce yourselves in a good way. You have fabricated sedition in Hajjah and killed innocent people. You have attacked a member of the parliament in his house, beaten him, and killed his men, why? Is this a project?

I am not addressing the parliament and the Shura Council, but I am addressing you as the representatives of the nation. In other words, you represent the nation and the nation is behind you. We are addressing our people. We are addressing the millions of people who gather in public squares. People gather in the Al-Saba'in Square every Friday, who paid them money? Who transported them and who gave them anything? How much is the budget? How much is the state's general reserve? From that day and until today we have run out of everything. These people, however, come to the al-Saba'in Square willingly and out of love of the revolution, security, and stability. This is the homeland of September and October and 22 May. We are not talking for the sake of talking, but we are talking about figures and facts, which are void of falsehood, lies, and propaganda. I tell them through satellite channels to say if I have said a false word through which I sought to deceive the Yemeni people and to reply to me. Is this a project? It is neither a tribal project, nor a civilized, nationalist, or socialist project, or anything. This is revenge against the homeland.

Therefore, I talk to you as representatives of the nation. I thank you. It is a long talk and we can talk about this for hours, but I will cut it short. God willing, we will meet within the next few days in order to put the people in the real picture of what is going on and to explain all developments in the arena in a transparent and open way. We will call on the parliament and the Shura Council to meet.

Once again, I thank the two national institutions, and I once again thank them for their steadfastness. I also thank those who left the institutions because our institutions have become clean of those who infiltrated these institutions. I once again thank those faithful men who stood fast in the army, the security forces, and in the state's legislative, consultative, and executive authorities. I thank those who left our institutions to make them clean. Once again, I greet you and I greet my colleague, brother, and my comrade-in-arms, Acting President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, for his steadfastness, taking into consideration that I know the deceptive ones and the liars who tell him whether you rule or not, they rule from behind you. I know the backbiters and slanderers. However, he is fortified because he is an experienced military commander who is aware of this.

Any leader who comes to power, whoever he maybe, comes with his crew and men. What counts is for the ship to set sail and to be taken to the safe shore. I call on you to continue to stand fast and to be firm and to face an argument with argument in the village, district, town, capital, and everywhere. Let our argument not be restricted to one place, but it should be in all areas and at all state institutions. Once again, I greet you and I thank you. God's peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you.

Yemen needs action, not just talk

Oct 9, 2011

By Ibrahim Sharqieh and Courtney Freer

The recent killing in Yemen of the American-born al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki, the return of the country's president, and a brutal crackdown on peaceful antigovernment protesters have brought tensions there to a dangerous level, threatening to plunge the country into civil war. But the international community has failed to take a stand, revealing a cold-blooded double standard on the Arab Spring uprisings. It's clear that the United States and its allies are interested only in "regime renovation" in Yemen, not regime change.

While coordinated international intervention took place in oil-rich Libya, Yemen, the region's poorest nation, sinks deeper into disarray. The regime's crackdown continues in the capital, San'a, and violent clashes between government forces and militias rage in Abyan province.

Several states share responsibility for the unconscionable neglect of Yemen, though the United States and Saudi Arabia have been particularly disappointing. In the absence of leadership from those countries, other players - including the Arab League, the United Nations, and Turkey - have failed to step in.

U.S. officials have claimed a steadfast commitment to democratic values amid the Arab Spring uprisings, but it seems to stop short of Yemen. In his milestone May speech on the Middle East, Obama barely mentioned the country, saying only, "President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power." Since then, official U.S. statements have endorsed a transition plan backed by the Gulf states, which would grant Ali Abdullah Saleh three months to transfer power to his vice president.

The Obama administration is clearly not ready to endorse regime change outright. Because Saleh has been a loyal ally in U.S. efforts against al-Qaeda - most recently in the operation against Awlaki - the administration appears to hope it can salvage at least part of the government, perhaps leaving its bureaucratic and security systems in place while a new presidency appeases the opposition. That Saleh was allowed to return to his country after the crackdown further shows that the United States is hesitating to hold him and his regime responsible for the brutality.

Saudi Arabia, which has worked closely with the United States to try to manage the Yemeni uprising, also supports regime renovation rather than outright change. Having led the charge to quash a destabilizing movement in Bahrain in March, the kingdom's rulers also hope to avoid unrest along their southern border. While the Saudi-led Gulf states proposed the plan for a transfer of power, Saudi Arabia also allowed the president to spend almost four months in the kingdom recovering from injuries incurred in a bombing of his palace.

In the absence of a strong U.S. or Saudi response, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been active in recent events in Syria, Libya, and Egypt, seemed a likely alternative. Yet he has remained silent on Yemen. An official statement from his government last month merely stressed the importance of ending violence, and it did not condemn the government crackdown.

The Arab League, meanwhile, has been perhaps the most impotent international organization when it comes to events in the region. It has failed to take a position on many major developments there, particularly in Yemen. As long ago as March, Arab League representatives condemned "crimes against civilians" in Yemen, and the organization vowed to monitor "the grave situation." But it has done little more than support the Gulf states' transition plan.

Although a U.N. team that visited Yemen in June reported that a "wide range of human rights violations and abuses have allegedly taken place throughout the country," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement last month strongly condemning "the excessive use of force by government security forces against unarmed protesters." Yet, again, no action has followed, showing a dangerous lack of commitment on the part of the international community.

Internally, the traditional parliamentary opposition has failed the country as well. It has yet to present a viable alternative to the regime, and it has not been a reliable ally to the protesters. While the protesters call for regime change, the opposition parties negotiate with regime elements, losing credibility in the eyes of many of the protesters. The opposition has done little besides sign on to the Gulf states' dubious transition plan.

Yemen needs regime change and representative government. Its young people have done their part, using peaceful means to oppose a brutal regime, and the international community owes them its full support.

The United States should abandon the notion that the Saleh regime is stable and will serve its interests. And Saudi Arabia should recognize that change is afoot in Yemen, and that prolonging the crisis will only endanger its security and lead to long-term instability on its southern border.

If peaceful protests are not rewarded, Yemenis may resort to arms. On the border of the world's largest oil exporter, that could destabilize the region and affect energy prices worldwide. More important, the international community must not allow its moral standards to disintegrate while a country slides into what could be a very long and bloody civil war.

Opposition urges UN to break Yemen deadlock

October 9, 2011

An opposition spokesperson on Sunday urged the UN Security Council to break the political deadlock in Yemen, scoffing at a statement from President Ali Abdullah Saleh that he was ready to step down.

Mohammed Qahtan, spokesperson for the parliamentary opposition Common Forum, said regional efforts to resolve the months-long political crisis in Yemen, in particular by Yemen's neighbors in the Gulf, had reached a deadlock.

The United Nations, especially its Security Council, would be " more effective" in ending the crisis and serve as a "continuation of the regional efforts" already underway, he told AFP in a telephone interview.

Qahtan was speaking ahead of Tuesday's planned report to the United Nations by Yemen envoy Jamal Benomar on his failure to broker agreement on a Gulf Cooperation Council deal for a transition of power in Yemen.

In a televised speech on Saturday, Saleh said: "I don't want power and I will give it up in the coming days."

The opposition, however, has dismissed his declaration as a sham, citing numerous other occasions when Saleh said he would resign but later refused to do so.

"Very simply, Saleh does not want to resign from power," Qahtan said, charging that the speech was merely a ploy to divert attention from Benomar's report to the UN.

"There is nothing new [in Saleh's declaration] … Saleh will never hand over power willingly," he said.

Yemenis shrug off Saleh's talk of stepping down

Sun Oct 9, 2011

By Erika Solomon and Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni protesters camped out in Sanaa's central square said on Sunday that President Ali Abdullah Saleh's suggestion that he would step down in the coming days was another promise that they were sure would be broken.

Analysts mostly agree that the vow, made three times already this year by Yemen's long-time ruler, was a stalling tactic in a succession crisis that has spread turmoil through the country.

A government official said Saleh was merely indicating readiness in a speech on Saturday night to reach a deal to end months of popular unrest.

"Saleh is a liar, nothing has changed since his speech," said Mohammed al-Asl, a protest organiser. "We're used to this type of thing now. He just says anything to fool his own people, the world, and everyone. We're not paying any attention to this."

Protesters, camped out in tents in the area in Sanna now dubbed as "Change Square" were going about their usual business of buying food, cooking and chewing wads of qat, a popular mild leaf stimulant common in Yemen.

Saleh's foreign minister met the U.S. ambassador for talks on Sunday, part of what many expect to be a diplomatic push to deflect any action by the U.N. Security Council when it is briefed on the Yemen situation in the coming days.

The wily leader, who came to power in 1978, is under pressure from international allies, street protesters, armed opponents and opposition parties to make good on promises to hand over power and end a crisis that has raised the spectre of a failed Arab state overrun by militants.

Confusion over Saleh's intent has been familiar fare in a conflict that has dragged on since January when protesters first took to the streets to demand reform and end the authoritarian grip of Saleh and his family.

"I reject power and I will continue to reject it, and I will be leaving power in the coming days," the 69-year-old Saleh said on state television.

He has already pulled back three times from signing a Gulf Arab peace initiative that would have seen him form an opposition-led cabinet and then hand power to his deputy before early parliamentary and presidential elections.

Officials said often during his convalescence in Riyadh after an assassination attempt in June that he would return "in days" or "soon." He flew back unannounced in late September.

"He said this to show his commitment to this plan, but there is no plan for a resignation or transfer of powers before we have agreed and signed a deal. That would just plunge the country into chaos or even war," Deputy Information Minister Abdu al-Janadi told Reuters.

"He is ready to leave power in days, yes, but whether this happens in the coming days or months will depend on the success of negotiations for a deal."

Protests against Saleh's rule have eroded government control over parts Yemen and fanned fears al Qaeda's regional wing may use the upheaval to expand its foothold near oil-shipping routes through the Red Sea.

"Everyone thinks he's just a liar," said Rani, a 19 year-old protester. "Maybe he wants to step down but just as likely he doesn't. As for us it's just a normal day."


Saleh's comments may been aimed at forestalling intervention from the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Diplomats have said they are close to getting international consensus on a Security Council resolution, which could come as early as next week, that would call on the government to implement the Gulf plan, which has U.S. backing.

A U.N. envoy, Jamal Beomar, left Yemen to brief the council last week after a fruitless two weeks trying to mediate between Saleh's government and the opposition.

On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein met Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr Abdullah Al-Qirbi and discussed the power transfer plan, Yemen's official news agency SABA reported.

"This is all an effort to calm the international community before the briefing before the Security Council," said Asl.

In Saturday's speech, Saleh repeated his condition that he will not cede power to long-time rivals from the opposition parties, who he says have hijacked the youth activists' protests and aim to subvert the constitutional process.

Saleh's presidential term ends in 2013 and he has said he will not run again, but analysts suspect he would like to outlast the crisis until then. The state of his health is not clear, though, after he was badly burnt in the June attack.

"This is new propaganda from Saleh before Yemen is discussed at the Security Council," said Mohammed al-Sabri, a opposition coalition spokesman. "Four months have passed since he said he accepted the Gulf transition deal, so what is stopping him? He doesn't even need a few days to do it."

New pressure came from an unexpected quarter on Friday when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Tawakul Karman, one of the leading activists who has been on the street at "Change Square" outside Sanaa University since February.

The recognition of a Yemeni democracy activist could refocus global attention on the struggle in Yemen, an impoverished state of 23 million with problems ranging from declining water resources to al Qaeda militants taking advantage of the chaos.

Public U.S. pressure has been lacking even as he cooperates with Washington in its covert war on militants in Yemen.

A CIA drone killed American-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last month in what was seen as a major coup for U.S. President Barack Obama in the battle against al Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia, a vital financial backer of Saleh's government, shares U.S. concerns about al Qaeda and is as keen as Saleh is to control the succession process.

Analysts say a power transition involving Saleh stepping down and early elections will not be feasible while much of Yemen is under the military and security thumb of his relatives.