Saleh in stalling tactics say analysts
Sanaa, October 9, 2011
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh suggested that he would step down within days, a promise he has made three times already this year, and analysts said it was yet another stalling tactic in a succession crisis that has spread turmoil through the country.
A government official said Saleh was merely indicating readiness in a speech on Saturday to reach a deal to end months of popular unrest.
Saleh's foreign minister met the US ambassador for talks on Sunday, part of what many expect to be a diplomatic push to deflect any action by the U.N. Security Council when it is briefed on the Yemen situation in the coming days.
The wily leader, who came to power in 1978, is under pressure from international allies and an array of street activists, armed opponents and opposition parties to make good on promises to hand over power and end a crisis that has raised the spectre of a failed Arab state overrun by militants.
Confusion over Saleh's intent has been familiar fare in a conflict that has dragged on since January when protesters first took to the streets to demand reform and end the authoritarian grip of Saleh and his family.
"I reject power and I will continue to reject it, and I will be leaving power in the coming days," the 69-year-old Saleh said on state television.
He has already pulled back three times from signing a Gulf Arab peace initiative that would have seen him form an opposition-led cabinet and then hand power to his deputy before early parliamentary and presidential elections.
Officials said often during his convalescence in Riyadh after an assassination attempt in June that he would return "in days" or "soon". He flew back unannounced in late September.
"He said this to show his commitment to this plan, but there is no plan for a resignation or transfer of powers before we have agreed and signed a deal. That would just plunge the country into chaos or even war," Deputy Information Minister Abdu al-Janadi told Reuters.
"He is ready to leave power in days, yes, but whether this happens in the coming days or months will depend on the success of negotiations for a deal.”
Protests against Saleh's rule have eroded government control over swathes of the country and fanned fears al Qaeda's regional wing may use the upheaval to expand its foothold near oil-shipping routes through the Red Sea.
Analysts say a power transition involving Saleh stepping down and early elections will not be feasible while the capital and much of Yemen is under the military and security thumb of his relatives.
Fighters from the Ahmar clan and renegade general Ali Mohsen -- both opponents who are backing the protesters -- have staked out their turf in the capital.
Opposition politician Ali Seif Hassan said Saleh was threatening the opposition in the speech that if they do not come to an agreement with him, he will go to elections on this own terms. "It's clear he wants to run the elections while his son and relatives are still running most of the military."
In the speech, Saleh seemed to signal fuller backing for his vice president Abd-Rabbu Hadi Mansour. State television showed Mansour rather than Saleh greeting parliamentarians afterwards at the presidential palace.
Mansour has long been seen as the ideal consensus candidate acceptable to the opposition, though hardliners in the ruling party have shunned him. - Reuters