Tuesday, January 10, 2012

United States defends immunity law for Yemeni president Saleh

Yemenis angry at the immunity offer take to the streets to call for Ali Abdullah Saleh's prosecution for protester killings

Associated Press

Tuesday 10 January 2012

The United States has defended a Yemeni draft law that would grant outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution over the killing of protesters during an uprising against his rule, despite criticism from the United Nations.

Yemen's cabinet proposed the law on Sunday to speed Saleh's exit from office in line with a Gulf-brokered plan to end protests that paralysed the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state for most of 2011.

"The immunity provisions were negotiated as part of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) deal to get Saleh to leave power. They have to be codified in law," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters at her daily briefing on Monday.

"This is part and parcel of giving these guys confidence that their era is over and it's time for Yemen to be able to move forward towards a democratic future," she added.

Rights groups say hundreds of protesters have been killed during the uprising.

More than a month since the Gulf deal was clinched, Yemenis angry at the immunity offer are still taking to the streets, calling for Saleh to be put on trial.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said on Friday that a guarantee of immunity to Saleh and his aides may violate international law, undermining the Gulf initiative.

Rights group Amnesty International also urged the Yemeni parliament to reject the law.

"This is a smack in the face for justice, made all the more glaring by the fact that protesters have been calling for an end to impunity since mass protests began in early 2011. The Yemeni parliament ought to reject this outright," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's interim director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement.

Under the Gulf deal, Saleh's General People's Congress party and the opposition Joint Meeting Parties agreed to divide up cabinet posts between them, forming a national unity government to lead the country towards presidential elections in February.

The United States and Saudi Arabia are keen for the plan to work, fearing that a power vacuum in Yemen gives Islamist militants suspected of links to al Qaeda space to thrive alongside a key shipping strait, the Red Sea.

Saleh signed the deal in November, having backed out of it three times before, but questions remain over the intentions of the veteran leader, who last week said he would stay in Yemen, reversing a pledge to travel to the United States.

"Interestingly, the visa application remains with the embassy, but Saleh and his team have asked to have their passports returned, so not sure what that's about," Nuland said.

Kuwait reiterates support for Yemeni people

KUWAIT, Jan 10 (KUNA) -- Kuwait Tuesday reiterated support for the Yemeni people and their legitimate demands, while calling for the implementation of the GCC initiative to achieve unity, stability and security of Yemen.

Kuwait made this position during official talks between His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and visiting Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammad Salem Basindawa, which also dealt with ways of boosting bilateral relations and cooperation.

Kuwait, during the talks, voiced readiness to offer humanitarian aid to the Yemenis who suffered damage from the conflict, as well as extending medical aid for the wounded.

The talks were attended by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Minister of Interior Sheikh Ahmad Al-Homoud Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Minister of Finance and Minister of Health Mustafa Al-Shimali, Minister of Public Words and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs Fadhel Safar, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister of State for Planning and Development Amani Boursely, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education Ahmad Al-Mulaifi, head of the accompanying honorary delegation, the advisor at the diwan of HH the Prime Minister, Sheikh Dr. Salem Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Foreign Undersecretary Khaled Al-Jarallah, senior officials at the Investment authority, KFAED and Kuwait Ambassador to Yemen.

The delegation accompanying Basindawa represented the Yemeni side.

Sheikh Jaber Mubarak then held a dinner banquet in honor of the visiting Yemeni Premier.

3 Yemeni Soldiers, 2 Al Qaeda Linked Militants Die

January 10, 2012| Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen-- A Yemeni military official says fighting between the army and Al Qaeda-linked militants has killed three soldiers and two militants.

The fighting took place Monday night and Tuesday morning north and east of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, the official said on condition of anonymity in line with military rules.

Militants have overrun swaths of territory in the area, taking advantage of the security vacuum resulting from the political unrest roiling the fragile and impoverished country.

On Tuesday, three protesters were wounded when government backers fired at a demonstration rejecting a law granting immunity to outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh, activist Ahmed Nouman said.

Yemen prime minister seeks Gulf aid

By Reuters

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Yemen's Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa left Saudi Arabia on Tuesday with a promise of support, but without a concrete figure for any aid it would receive.

"Certainly we have had a concrete commitment from the government of (King Abdullah) to provide Yemen with the support they feel is needed in this transitional period," said Foreign Minister Abubakr Al Qirbi, who is accompanying Basindwa on his tour of Gulf Arab capitals.

Asked if Saudi Arabia had put a figure on the amount of aid it would give, he added: "Not yet, but I hope it will be soon."

Basindwa met Saudi King Abdullah on Monday.

Qirbi met Gulf Arab deputy finance ministers last month to discuss aid to Yemen.

The Yemeni prime minister and foreign minister will meet other Gulf Arab leaders this week to talk about help for the Arabian Peninsula state.

Last month Saudi Arabia agreed to donate fuel to Yemen.

Yemen gives nod to crude oil sales

Jan. 10, 2012

SANAA, Yemen, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The Yemeni government said it approved the sale of 2.5 million barrels of oil to Arcadia Petroleum for March deliveries.

Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa approved of the sale of 2.5 million barrels out of nearly 3.1 barrels of the country's Masila crude. The price was listed at $2.15 per barrels above the European benchmark Dated Brent Crude, down from the $2.93 charged for February deliveries.

The remaining 600,000 barrels would be offered at a price approved for March or be deferred for April sales, the official Saba news agency reports.

Yemen is in the grips of a political crisis after embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a deal to hand power over to his vice president in exchange for immunity. Yemen for much of 2011 was caught up in mass protests that were part of the so-called Arab Spring.

In late 2010, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was blamed for a raid on the Yemeni headquarters of Austrian energy company OMV.

The country late last year, however, said authorities from OMV and other major oil companies said they would resume operation in Yemen. Their employees had left the country last year because of the unrest.