Sunday, November 27, 2011

Yemen presidential election set for February

Sana'a, November 27, 2011- Yemen’s vice-president called presidential elections for February 21 on Saturday under a deal aimed at ending months of protests against Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, that have brought the country to the edge of civil war.
If the agreement goes according to plan, Mr Saleh will become the fourth Arab ruler brought down by mass demonstrations that have reshaped the political landscape of the Middle East.
Mr Saleh returned home on Saturday after signing the deal with the opposition in Riyadh on Wednesday under which he transferred his powers to Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the vice-president, after 33 years in office and 10 months of protests.
In a decree run on the Saba state news agency on Saturday, Mr Hadi said Yemenis “are called on to vote in early elections for a new president of the republic starting at 8 o’clock on the morning of Tuesday, February 21 2012”.
“The early presidential election will take place under the management of the Supreme Commission For Elections and Referendum,” the decree added.
Yemen has become engulfed under Mr Saleh by political strife that has allowed free rein to northern rebels, southern secessionists and al-Qaeda.
Under the agreement, signed with the Yemeni opposition at a ceremony hosted by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Mr Saleh will receive immunity from prosecution and keep his title until a successor is elected. Mr Hadi was charged with calling the election within three months and forming a new government with the opposition.
Hundreds of people have been killed during months of protests seeking Mr Saleh’s overthrow. The political deadlock has reignited conflicts with separatists and militants, raising fears that al-Qaeda’s Yemen wing could take a foothold on the borders of Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.
Details of the power transfer deal – drawn up by Yemen’s richer neighbours in the Gulf Co-operation Council earlier this year, and thwarted by Mr Saleh on three separate occasions – were hammered out by Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy, with support from US and European diplomats.
The deal has failed to appease protesters at Sana’a’s “Change Square”, with many of them angry that it has guaranteed Mr Saleh and his family immunity.
On Friday, opposition parties agreed to nominate the head of an alliance that led the protests, Mohammed Basindwa, to form a new government. Mr Basindwa is a former foreign minister who leads the opposition National Council formed after the protests broke out in February.
Earlier on Saturday, 10 people were killed in north Yemen when Shia Muslim rebels shelled positions held by Sunni Islamist Salafi fighters after the collapse of a week-old ceasefire, a Salafi representative said.
The conflict between the Shia Houthi rebels and the Sunni Salafis is just one of several plaguing Yemen. In recent weeks, the Houthis have skirmished with Salafist fighters, leading local tribesmen to broker a truce between them a week ago.
“The Houthis broke the ceasefire and shelled the town of Damaj,” said the Salafi spokesman, who identified himself as Abu Ismail, adding that 15 people were injured.
Members of the Zaidi sect of Shi’ite Islam, the Houthi rebels led an uprising based in the northern Saada province that Mr Saleh’s forces have struggled to crush, with Saudi Arabia intervening militarily in 2009 before a ceasefire took hold last year.
The Houthis, who in effect control Saada, are deeply wary of Saudi Arabia’s promotion of puritanical Sunni Salafi creeds that regard Shia as heretics.
Saleh Habra, a Houthi leader, has accused the Yemeni government of supplying arms to the Salafis, who he said were trying to build a military camp near the Saudi border. “We are trying to cut off their arms supplies,” Mr Habra told Reuters last week.
Separately, Yemeni aircraft bombed sites used by anti-government tribal militants in northern Sana’a, killing seven people, tribal sources said on Saturday.
Those sources said tribal fighters were seeking to surround a camp used by the Republican Guard, a unit led by Mr Saleh’s son.

Yemen's Saleh decrees “general amnesty”

November 27, 2011
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has pardoned those who "committed errors during the crisis" that has rocked the country since January and killed hundreds of people, state television reported Sunday.
The announcement immediately drew the ire of opposition groups who say Saleh can no longer take such decisions having transferred his powers to his deputy under a Gulf deal to step down in return for immunity from prosecution.
"The President of the republic has decreed a general amnesty for all those who have committed errors during the crisis," said a statement flashed on state television.
The reported pardon came as tensions remain high in Yemen, where Saleh returned overnight from Riyadh, where he signed the Gulf-brokered deal to step aside.
"This is in violation of the Gulf initiative by which the president delegated his powers to the vice-president," opposition spokeswoman Hurriya Mashhud told AFP.
"He no longer has the right, nor the prerogative or the capacity to take such decisions," she added.
The Gulf-brokered deal signed on Wednesday stipulates that Saleh -- who has been in power for more than three decades but faced 10 months of massive anti-regime protests -- must leave power within 90 days.
Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, to whom Saleh transferred power under the Gulf deal, announced on Saturday that a new presidential election will take place on February 21 -- one year ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile the state broadcaster said that the amnesty decided by Saleh "does not include those involved in crime and in the attack against the mosque at the presidential palace compound."
Suspects who are "members of [political] parties, groups or individuals will be brought to trial," the report added.
Saleh was wounded in the June 3 bomb attack and had to seek treatment in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Four Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen

Four suspected Al-Qaeda militants, one an Iraqi, have been killed in an ambush by tribal fighters allied to the military in south Yemen's Abyan province,
AFP , Sunday 27 Nov 2011
The four were hit with rockets and artillery on Saturday "in a car belonging to Al-Qaeda" on the road from provincial capital Zinjibar to Jaar, two towns held by insurgents linked to the extremist group, a tribal source told AFP.
"The vehicle was burned to a cinder and the four people inside, including an Iraqi, were killed," added the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Also in Abyan province -- a bastion of Al-Qaeda-linked fighters -- witnesses reported that Zinjibar resident Saleh Bashrima, 35, who was accused of rape, had his right hand amputated in public on Saturday "by Al-Qaeda members."
Since May, the militants have taken control of several towns in Abyan as 10 straight months of protests against veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime have weakened central government control.
The militants from the group Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) have in recent weeks enforced their own very strict interpretation of Islamic justice. On November 12, they handed out 80 lashes each to five youths they said had taken narcotic pills.
In September, the militants severed the hand of a 15-year-old as punishment for stealing electrical cables. He later died from blood loss. Despite months of clashes, government troops have so far been unable to take back full control of Abyan's towns and cities.

Yemen Shiite Houthis Fight Salafists Near Saudi Arabia’s Border

By Mohammed Hatem - Nov 27, 2011
Yemen’s Shiite Muslim Houthis killed 24 Salafist Sunni Muslims yesterday after a week of sporadic fighting between the two religious communities in the north of the country near the border with Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis attacked the Dar al-Hadith religious school in the Dammaj region in Saada, according to Abdulhamid al-Hajouri, the principal of the school. About 60 Salafists, who are considered conservative Sunni Muslims, were wounded in the clashes, Abu Ismail, spokesman for the group in Dammaj, said in a phone interview today. Several Houthi fighters were also killed and wounded, Dhaifallah al-Shami, a leader of the Shiite group, said.
The fighting occurred the same week that President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed an agreement to relinquish power to Vice President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi. Saleh and an opposition delegation signed on Nov. 23 a power-transfer agreement brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
The Houthis, so-called because of the family name of their leaders, began fighting the government in the northern province of Saada in 2004. The conflict has in the past drawn in Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim-led monarchy. Saudi Arabia lost more than 100 soldiers in a three-month battle against the Houthis that ended in February 2010.

Yemen's Saleh remains in spotlight as PM named

27 November 2011
Yemen's Vice-President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi has named a senior opposition figure, Mohammed Basindwa, as interim prime minister, but many questions remain over the role of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The president apparently transferred his powers to Mr Hadi under a deal to end months of deadly unrest, but still appears to be playing an active role in affairs.
His latest move was to offer an amnesty to those who "committed errors during the crisis".

Basindwa named as new prime minister

SANA’A, Nov. 27 (Saba)- Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi named in a presidential decree on Sunday Mohammed Basindwa as a new prime minister.
The presidential decree (28) for 2011 was done under the Gulf-brokered initiative and its implementation mechanism signed in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on 23 November.

Yemeni Protesters Want Saleh Tried

26 Nov 2011
Sana, Nov 26 (Prensa Latina) Representatives of the movement opposed to the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh promised Saturday to carry on with the peaceful demonstrations demanding that Ali Abdullah Saleh is tried, despite the use of violence from military forces that have left two killed.
After the mass demonstrations Friday in Sanaa and other cities, the activists who started the popular uprising against Saleh on Jan. 27 continue reluctant to grant legal immunity to the president and his family as a gift for him to leave power.
Protesters gathered at the Change Square labelled as "traitors" the opposition parties of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP)coalition that negotiated an initiative by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)with the General People's Congress (GPC).
On Friday, The parties that signed the GCC agreement named Mohamed Basindwa prime minister of the future government, which does not guarantee substantial changes since the Army and the strongest branches of Yemen's security forces are still in the hands of Saleh�s relatives.
The signs of distress among the most radical opposition sectors yesterday resulted in clashes between the Central Security forces commanded by Salehâ�Ös nephew, Colonel Yehia Saleh, and the First Armored Division, headed by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahma.
According to medical and military sources, two soldiers were killed, one from each side, and dozens were injured during the clashes that took place Friday near the house of the vice president.