Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yemeni Leader Offers To Step Aside By Next Year

Yemen's leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has offered to leave office by the end of the year, but is saying he wont leave office unless he knows who will be replacing him. He wants a formal handover following parliamentary elections.

That's not going to be sufficient for opposition groups, who were bolstered by the defection of several top military officials in the past 24 hours:
Throughout much of the day on Tuesday, there were conflicting reports about the nature of the proposal that Mr. Saleh had endorsed as spokesmen for the government and opposition groups traded barbs.

A spokesman for the Joint Meetings Parties, a coalition of opposition parties, called the president “a liar” and said that the group had not been in communication with Mr. Saleh since a bloody assault on a demonstration last Friday that killed at least 50 people.

“He has one option and it is to leave now, right now, without delaying, without conditions,” the spokesman, Mohammed Qahtan, said.

Mr. Saleh, too, struck a defiant tone in a short, nationally televised address on Tuesday before the country’s National Defense Council, telling the assembled military officers still loyal to him that “the winds won’t shake you” and warning against a coup.

A government official, who spoke in return for anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said on Tuesday that the details of Mr. Saleh’s proposal were not yet clear and were “still in the works.” The opposition plan, initially proposed by the formal opposition parties earlier this month but rejected by street protesters, urged Mr. Saleh to complete arrangements for his departure by the end of the year. But since then, the opposition parties have backed away from the offer, joining with street demonstrators calling for Mr. Saleh to quit immediately.

Mr. Saleh appeared willing to shift ground after a wave of high-level officials, including the senior commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, abandoned him and threw their support behind protesters calling for his ouster. Previously Mr. Saleh had offered only to leave by 2013.

The latest of the departures came on Tuesday when Abdel-Malik Mansour, Yemen’s representative to the Arab League, told Al Arabiya television he had thrown his support behind the protesters. Abdul-Rahman al-Iryani, the minister of water and environment, who was dismissed with the rest of the cabinet on Sunday, also said he was joining “the revolutionaries.”

Military units appeared to take sides in the capital on Monday, with the Republican Guard protecting the palace of President Saleh and soldiers from the First Armored Division under the defecting military commander, General Ahmar, protecting the throngs of protesters in Sana.
It goes without saying that the turmoil in Yemen is sure to benefit al Qaeda, which has repeatedly used the country as a safe haven and from which it has launched attacks, including the attack on the USS Cole in Aden that killed 17 sailors.

No comments: