Sunday, February 19, 2012

3 Troops Hurt in Clash with Separatists ahead of Yemen Vote

February 19, 2012
Three soldiers were wounded in a clash with southern separatists near a polling booth in Lahij province on Sunday, two days ahead of Yemen's presidential election, a government official said.
"Gunmen from the Southern Movement attacked military vehicles carrying ballot boxes to a polling booth in a school" near Al-anad air base in Lahij, the official told Agence France Presse. "Three soldiers were wounded in an exchange of fire."
A faction of the Southern Movement has called for a day of "civil disobedience" on Tuesday when Yemenis are to vote for Vice President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, the sole candidate, to replace outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
It urged supporters to rally in the main southern city of Aden on Monday to "demand the freedom and independence" of the south.
Other members of the Southern Movement, who say the poll fails to meet their aspirations for autonomy or southern independence, have been campaigning for a boycott.
On Friday, three civilians were wounded as southern militants traded fire with police outside a polling station, residents said.
Under a Gulf-sponsored accord signed in November, Hadi, himself a southerner, is standing as the sole candidate to replace Saleh.
Saleh, who has been receiving medical treatment in New York from bomb blast wounds at his Sanaa palace compound last June, agreed in November to a power-transition deal after months of mass protests demanding his ouster.
Yemeni authorities have mobilized more than 103,000 members of the security forces around the country to safeguard the polling, a member of the senior electoral commission in Sanaa said.

Obama voices support for Yemen VP days before vote

Sunday, February 19, 2012
SANAA, Yemen (AP) --President Barack Obama has voiced his support for Yemen's vice president days before an election expected to make Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi the country's new leader.
Obama says in the letter that he looks forward to deeper relations between the two countries and vows that the U.S. will be "a strong and reliable partner."
The letter was delivered by Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, who read it to reporters in Yemen Sunday.
Obama also said he hoped Yemen would become a symbol of political transformation "when people resist violence and unite under a common cause."
Yemen has been torn apart by a year-old uprising seeking to end the rule of autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is to be succeeded by Hadi in an uncontested election Tuesday.

Yemeni Activists Fear ‘Short-Circuited’ Revolution

February 19, 2012
Sanaa, Yemen. The youth who poured into the streets of Yemen a year ago to demand longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh leave office are about to achieve that goal, but fear their hopes of a new political beginning are still in jeopardy.
So Walid Ammari, a 35-year-old leader of the movement, and the activists who have camped out in front of Sanaa University since January 2011, and were frequently the target of deadly attacks by regime forces, are going to stay put.
Under a Gulf-brokered deal signed by Saleh in November, after months of procrastination, the president agreed to turn over power to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
Hadi will be the sole candidate in an election on Tuesday that will give him a two-year interim period, while Saleh and his family have been guaranteed immunity from prosecution.
But for Ammari and his colleagues, too many figures close to the outgoing president, including his son, brother and nephews, remain in control of key military and security posts.
 “What we have achieved falls short of our aspirations. We will continue our sit-in until all the symbols of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime have been swept away, particularly within the army,” Ammari said.
Medical student Hamza Kamali, 27, said the “accord has allowed us to avoid civil war because, unlike Tunisia and Egypt where the military’s stance allowed the people to overthrow their presidents, the army in Yemen is one with the regime.”
Ammar, a university graduate, said he feared “that the objectives of our uprising will be short-circuited,” by being marginalized by traditional political forces.
In Sanaa’s “Change Square,” tribesmen in traditional garb and 40-somethings from the old opposition parties, dominated by the Islah party, mingle among the young.
Islah is the largest opposition group in the impoverished nation and is a melting pot of Islamists, including the local version of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi-influenced Salafists.
And the Islamists have emerged as the biggest winners in the struggle to oust Saleh.
It was the traditional opposition forces who signed the Nov. 23, 2011, deal with Saleh under which he will step down after 33 years and who are participating with Saleh stalwarts in a new national unity government.
Under that deal, Yemen’s youth are to be brought into a national dialogue after Tuesday’s election, but they have yet to have any contact with the future president.
And while they know that they will probably have to decide at some point to take down their tents and go home, these partisans of a modern Yemen have no intention of giving up.
 “We want to build a state of law based on modern institutions, an independent judicial system, a functioning educational system, a relaunch of the economy,” Ammari said.
But he also must know that these goals will be tough to achieve in the face of archaic structures, with the economy on the verge of collapse and undermined by tribal rivalries and endemic corruption.

Yemen committed to destroying Al Qaeda: US official

Sunday, February 19, 2012
Yemen's sole presidential candidate who will be voted in this week is committed to "destroying" Al Qaeda, US Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said on Sunday in Sanaa.
Brennan who met on Saturday in Sanaa with Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi -- the sole consensus candidate in Tuesday's polls - said he was "very encouraged by (Hadi's) comments" on Al Qaeda.
"He is committed as well to destroy Al Qaeda and I consider him a good and strong counterpart," Brennan told reporters.
State news agency Saba meanwhile quoted Hadi as saying that "the terrorist Al Qaeda organisation must be fought and its presence in the Arabian Peninsula must be put to an end."
"This needs a meaningful international cooperation," said Hadi.
Hadi's comments came after a meeting with Baroness Emma Nicholson, a member of the British House of Lords, who is visiting Sanaa ahead of Tuesday’s presidential  election, Saba said.
Yemenis will hold referendum-like presidential polls on Tuesday in which President Ali Abdullah Saleh will officially hand power over to Hadi, under a Gulf-brokered power transfer plan signed by the outgoing leader in November.
"There are some individuals in Yemen who have exploited Al-Qaeda's presence for their own interests," said Brennan. "We find it outrageous for any members of the Yemeni government or the Yemeni global system to do so."
"In my previous visit I had spoken directly to Yemeni officials about the need to do more against Al Qaeda, and to dry up their sources of support."
When asked about the US role in fighting Al Qaeda in Yemen, Brennan said: "We provide to the Yemeni units that fight Al-Qaeda advice, assistance and equipment."