By AHMED AL-HAJ - Associated Press
April 12, 2012
SANAA, Yemen -- Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Thursday his loyalists should maintain leading roles in running the country's affairs to ensure stability, in a clear warning against attempts by his successor to purge them.
The opposition has accused Saleh, who stepped down in February as part of a power transfer deal negotiated by Gulf countries and backed by the U.S., of trying undermine his successor, former Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in a bid to return to office.
"Yemen will not see stability without an effective role for the leadership and the bases of the General People's Congress party," Saleh said in a statement, referring to his ruling party.
Saleh was the fourth Arab leader to step aside in the wave of revolts that have swept across the Mideast over the past year. After months of mass protests demanding his ouster. But the Gulf-brokered deal that ushered Saleh out of office allowed him to stay on as the head of his party and keep half of the Cabinet ministers in place. It also did not stipulate that the former president must leave the country, and Saleh said he would use his presence to continue to lead the ruling party, to which Hadi also belongs.
"We have always said if this man remains in the country, it will be a big problem," said Mohammed al-Sabri, an opposition spokesman. "The other problem is the international mediators who pressed the opposition to offer him immunity. They have a moral responsibility."
The agreement granted Saleh immunity from prosecution for the killing of protesters in exchange for leaving office.
In his more than 30 years in power, Saleh stacked key security and government posts with relatives and cronies, and one of Hadi's biggest challenges is weeding them out as part of urgently needed reforms.
Hadi has moved in that direction, and last week sacked several generals and other former regime figures as part of reforms in the country's security services. In response, outraged Saleh loyalists seized the capital's main airport, disrupting flights for a day.
Among those fired were Saleh's half brother, air force commander Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, and his nephew, Tariq, who headed the presidential guard. Both so far have refused to step aside.
The restructuring didn't touch the ex-president's son Ahmed, who has retained kept command of the well-equipped and powerful Republican Guard, or Saleh's nephew, Yahia, the head of the Central Security Forces. The show of force appeared to be an attempt to intimidate Hadi and dissuade him from trying to implement more sweeping reforms that would remove them and other family members.