Sunday, December 25, 2011

Yemeni MPs denounce US Ambassador' statement against “March of Life”

News Yemen
Members of the Yemeni Parliament in the city of Taiz, southern Yemen, criticized U.S. ambassador to Yemen over labeling a foot march from Taiz to Sana'a, almost 280km, as “non-peaceful.”
The independent MPs said in a press conference on Sunday that the U.S. ambassador Gerlad Feierstein's remarks on the march of life gave green light to the regime to kill the participants in the march in Sana'a.
At least 13 people were killed and more than 200 others wounded.
The MPs, who resigned from the General People's Congress (GPC) party and joined the peaceful youth and popular revolution last March, called the U.S. ambassador to apologize “for the people of Taiz in particular, and the people of Yemen in general.”
They also demanded material and moral compensation for families of victims and for those who are suffering injuries, disabilities and psychological and moral damage.
“Members of the Parliament strongly condemn the US ambassador's irresponsible statements, which was one of the main reasons that encouraged the regime to attack the peaceful march.”
The MPs added that the regime carried out the massacre “because it was sure that it would not be held accountable as the statement by the US ambassador was considered a green light.”
The MPs condemned the attack on the march and said that they would boycott the sessions of the Parliament and that they will never give immunity for killers.
A source in the US embassy in Sana'a told al-Masdar Online that the embassy talked to senior Yemeni officials one day before the arrival of the “March of Life” to Sana'a and urged retraint.
The source said that the embassy also asked Yemeni officials to meet the marchers and allow them to march to the Change Square.
This comes one day after the US ambassador told reporters in Sana'a that the “March of Life” is not peaceful and aims to cause chaos and provoke the security forces, according to reports by al-Masdar Online and al-Ula independent daily which attended the press conference.

Intelligence chief shot dead in south Yemen: police

(AFP) December 25, 2011
ADEN — Gunmen shot dead an intelligence chief on Sunday in the port of Aden in south Yemen, a police official said, blaming the attack on Al-Qaeda.
The assailants intercepted the vehicle carrying Colonel Hussein Shabibi, head of internal security in the city's Sheikh Othman district, and shot him dead before making good their escape in a car, the official said.
Shabibi was the latest security officer to be targeted in recent months in south Yemen in attacks generally attributed by officials to Al-Qaeda.
The Islamist extremist network has turned 11 months of political turmoil in the capital Sanaa to its advantage, using the popular revolt against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to bolster its presence in south and east Yemen.
Militants linked to Al-Qaeda control several regions and towns including Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar, where they clash regularly with government forces and tribal auxiliaries.
Government forces are also sometimes supported by US drone strikes in their battle against the Partisans of Sharia, the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group that took over most of Zinjibar in May.

US ambassadors to Yemen announcements provoke controversy

Mohammed al-Kibsi
Dec 25, 2011
Yemen’s revolutionary council and peace Laurent Tawakul Karman condemned the announcements of the US ambassador Gerald Feierstein that said the Life March from Taiz to Sana’a was not peaceful.
The revolutionary council demanded that ambassador Feierstein most apologize while Tawkul Karman in her face book described the announcement as brutal. “How did he know that the march would turn violent,” she wondered. Some other youth affiliated to Houthi even demanded the US ambassador to leave Yemen.
Feierstein had said in a press conference held at the embassy on Saturday that the march of life that was approaching Sana'a aimed to erupt chaos and violence. “It seems to have the intention not to carry out a peaceful march, but to get access to Sana'a in order to generate chaos and provoke a violent response by the security forces”, US ambassador said.
“Peace is not only not to take up arms, for example , if 2000 people decided to protest to the White House in US, we do not consider it a peaceful act and will not allow this,” US ambassador added.
These announcements provoked controversy and anger among the youth and opposition activists that organized the march.
According to opposition sources over 9 demonstrators were killed when some of the demonstrators changed their route and tried to head to the Presidential complex.
They clashed with the security barriers set ups to prevent them from reaching to the presidential complex in al-Sabein area in the south of Sana’a.
The protesters affiliated to the JMP accused the so called Shabab al-Somoud affiliated to Houthi of derailing the march and of erupting chaos and violence.
Thousands of protesters who marched from Taiz south of Yemen entered Yemen's capital Saturday after a 5-day march passing three Yemeni provinces.
Prior to the march the General People Congress Party (GPC) that is the ruling party called on the sponsors of the GCC peace deal to pressure on the Joint Meeting Opposition Parties JMP to respect the deal and stop provocations accusing them of sponsoring the march of life to temper the peace deal.
President Saleh in his press conference held on Saturday few hours before the incidents accused Hamid al-Ahmar of financing the life march.
He also accused him of being in charge of the June 3 assassination attempt that targeted him and other high rank Yemeni officials that resulted in killing dozens including the speaker of Yemen Senate late Abdul-Aziz Abdul Ghani and wounding man others including the president himself, the former prime minister and the speaker of the parliament.
Saleh called on the opposition parties and all other parties to commit to the GCC deal as a whole matrix but not to be selective.
The president also said that he would leave Yemen to the United States not only for medical treatment as was announced by some UN officials but also for some political affairs.
He said he would leave and stay abroad so as to give chance for the interim government to organize the early presidential elections. However he said he would come back to Yemen to lead his ruling party GPC when in the opposition.
The violence underlined the continuing turmoil in Yemen even after Saleh signed a GCC brokered deal that was backed by UNSC resolution last month by which he handed his powers to his vice president and committed to step down completely within 90 days.

Yemen leader urges truce after troops kill protesters

Mohammed Ghobari, Reuters December 25, 2011
SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen's acting leader on Sunday urged foes and loyalists of President Ali Abdullah to call a truce, after Saleh's forces killed nine people demanding he be tried for the deaths of demonstrators over nearly a year of protests against him. Troops from what witnesses identified as key loyalist units opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters approaching Saleh's compound in the capital on Saturday after a days-long march from the city of Taiz, chanting "No to immunity!."
They referred to a pledge to spare Saleh prosecution in exchange for giving his powers to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and letting a government including opposition parties lead Yemen to a February election to replace Saleh after 33 years.
That government is to separate Saleh's forces from rebel army units and tribal militias they have fought in Sanaa, a key to the power transfer deal Yemen's wealthier neighbours brokered to avert a civil war they fear will affect them.
The state news agency on Sunday quoted Hadi as saying during a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Sanaa, Gerald Feierstein, that all sides "must commit ... to a truce and respect its rules forbidding escalation" that would threaten the transition deal.
Hadi was echoing a note struck by the U.S. side just before the killings, when Feierstein was quoted by a Yemeni news outlet as telling a group of Yemeni journalists that the protest - which set out days earlier from Taiz 200 km (125 miles) to the south - was a provocative act.
Feierstein and other embassy officials did not respond to calls on Saturday and Sunday seeking comment on the remarks.
Washington long backed Saleh as a cornerstone of its "counter-terrorism" policy in Yemen, which includes the use of drones to kill alleged al Qaeda members. A CIA drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, earlier this year.
Hours after the killings, Saleh said he would leave for the United States and give way to the new government and the vote to pick his successor. But he gave no timetable for leaving and vowed to return, this time in opposition to the government.
"An unstable Yemen means an unstable region. So, protect the security, unity and stability of Yemen, neighbour states," he told reporters. "Its security is yours."
A defence ministry website, September 26, on Sunday cited an unidentified official denying the military - key units of which are led by Saleh's son and nephew - played any role in the killing of the protesters in Sanaa.
It pinned the blame on the interior ministry - now led by an opposition figure - calling witness and news accounts of pro-Saleh troops shooting protesters "baseless, mendacious claims that are part of a vicious media campaign ... against the defence establishment."
The interim government, led by a former foreign minister who joined the opposition against Saleh, late on Saturday called for an investigation of the killings.
The youth-led protesters who have taken to the streets against Saleh bitterly condemn the opposition parties - some of which once took part in Saleh's governments - for agreeing to grant him immunity, and demand that he and his inner circle be tried and banned from power.
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, called on governments to ignore the immunity pledge and freeze Saleh's assets abroad, saying: "Promises of immunity encourage rather than deter illegal attacks."
Any post-Saleh government would face overlapping regional conflicts that have displaced nearly half a million people, and political paralysis has seen attacks on infrastructure hamper the modest oil exports that fund imports of staple foods.
Fighting with Islamist who have seized chunks of territory in a southern province, Abyan, has sent tens of thousands of its residents to flight, compounding Yemen's humanitarian crisis.
Separatist sentiment is also surging in the south, formerly a socialist republic that fought a civil war with Saleh's north in 1994 after four turbulent years of formal union.

Yemenis rally for Saleh trial despite shootings

By Jamal al-Jabiri (AFP) – December 25, 2011
SANAA — Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Yemen's capital Sunday calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to face trial, a day after his forces and loyalists killed 13 people at a similar demonstration.
"The people want to bring the slaughterer to trial," shouted the protesters who marched from Change Square, epicentre of the uprising that began nearly a year ago, towards Sittin Avenue in the northern district of Sanaa.
"We won't rest until the slaughterer is executed," they chanted. "We don't want Abdrabuh, Ali Saleh controls him," they chanted, referring to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
Saleh is still honorary president but handed authority over to Hadi last month when he signed a Gulf-brokered deal in which he won immunity from prosecution in exchange for ending his 33-year rule when polls are held in February.
Angry youths have staged defiant protests against the plan, which is backed by the United Nations, despite a bloody backlash by Saleh's forces and loyalists that has seen hundreds of them killed.
But Saleh's General People's Congress party insisted on Sunday that the parliament would confirm the immunity deal.
"Measures will be taken to issue the immunity law as per the Gulf plan" after a parliamentary vote of confidence on the newly formed unity government expected this week, Sultan al-Barakani, who represents the GPC's bloc in parliament, told AFP.
The veteran leader said Saturday that he would soon visit the United States ahead of transferring power following a February 21 presidential election.
A diplomat from one of the countries that has sponsored the deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Saleh has presented "a list of 412 people" he wants the immunity deal to include.
The list includes his relatives, aides, and officials who had worked with him during his rule, the source said, adding that Saleh was given a US visa "two weeks ago."
But Sunday's protesters reject any such agreements.
"No guarantee, no immunity to Saleh and to those close to him," they shouted.
The protesters, backed by tens of thousands who were met by gunfire from Saleh's forces and loyalists after they arrived on foot Saturday from the second-largest city Taez, called on Hadi to hand over those responsible for the violence to justice.
"Take up your responsibility and hand the killers of the youths over to justice, or resign," said one of the organisers on a loudspeaker as the demonstrators gathered outside Hadi's residence on Sittin Avenue.
Thirteen people were killed on Saturday when security forces and gunmen loyal to Saleh attacked their march in which they were calling for him to be put on trial.
"Thirteen people were killed and 50 others were wounded by live rounds," a medical official said Sunday, updating an earlier toll of nine dead.
The medic from a field hospital in the capital said that 150 other people suffered from breathing difficulties due to tear gas inhalation.
Another medic who confirmed the toll said three of the wounded had succumbed to their injuries while a fourth was shot dead in another protest later on Saturday.
The objective of the five-day-long "March for Life" that turned deadly on Saturday was to press for Saleh and his top allies to face criminal charges for their roles in the violence committed against anti-regime protesters.
Despite being met by live rounds, water cannon and tear gas upon their arrival in Sanaa's south, the crowds who set off from Taez on Tuesday for the 270-kilometre (167-mile) march to Sanaa poured into the capital where they spent the night in Change Square.