SANAA Jan 4 (Reuters) - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will not travel to the United States, a senior aide said on Wednesday, reversing a pledge by the leader who has withstood nearly a year of protests and military challenges from rivals seeking to topple him.
Saleh announced he would visit the United States last month, hours after forces loyal to him killed protesters demanding he face trial for killings during an uprising aimed at ending his 33-year rule.
He would enjoy immunity from prosecution under a deal crafted by his wealthier neighbours and backed by Washington - which long backed Saleh as a pillar of its "counter-terrorism" strategy - aimed at averting civil war by easing him from power.
The United States has said it is considering giving Saleh a visa for medical treatment, a decision critics of the U.S. administration's Yemen policy have said lends the impression that Washington is sheltering Saleh.
"The idea of President Saleh's visit to America is now unlikely," Abdu al-Janadi, who is a senior figure in Saleh's political party and Yemen's deputy information minister, told reporters on Wednesday.
He said members of Saleh's party asked him to remain and help ensure that the deputy to whom Saleh has formally transferred power succeeds him in an election set for February.
"(They)...have asked the president not to travel under these circumstances because they fear that if he does, implementation of the Gulf initiative will bog down and the presidential election will be a failure," Janadi said.
"His staying helps guarantee the success of the national unity candidate, (acting leader) Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi."
Washington and oil giant Saudi Arabia fear uncertainty over Saleh's fate could push the country into chaos and embolden Yemen's al Qaeda wing, which has plotted attacks abroad.