Yemen's Saleh seeking exile in reluctant Oman - diplomats
Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:53am GMT
MUSCAT (Reuters) - Yemen's outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh is seeking
exile in neighbouring Oman, but the sultanate is reluctant to host him for
fear of hurting its relations with any future Yemeni government, diplomats
said on Tuesday.
Saleh left Sanaa on Sunday and headed to the United States for medical
treatment following a brief stopover in Oman, though he said in a parting
speech he would return to Yemen.
A foreign diplomat in Muscat said Saleh has sought permission to reside
there. An Omani government source declined to confirm or deny receiving such
a request, but said Oman would be reluctant to grant it in case this might
harm future relations with Yemen.
The United States, which endorsed a plan to coax Saleh out of office by
granting him immunity from prosecution over the deaths of protesters during
an uprising against his rule, defended its decision to issue him a visa,
despite criticism that it would be seen as sheltering him.
"We ... believe that his absence from Yemen at this critical juncture will
help facilitate a transition that completes the end of his rule, helps Yemen
and ultimately has a positive effect on the rights and dignity of the Yemeni
people," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday.
"Our policy focus remains on preventing further instability and keeping that
transition on track," he said, adding that Saleh would stay in the United
States for a limited time only.
The United States and Saudi Arabia fear protracted political upheaval in
Yemen could give al Qaeda's regional wing a foothold near oil shipping
routes through the Red Sea.
Despite Saleh's departure, many believe he and his supporters will still
wield influence over Yemen, which has seen a year of anti-government
demonstrations punctuated by warfare between Saleh's forces, those of a
rebel general, and tribal militias.
Yemeni air force officers blocked main roads in the capital on the third day
of a strike demanding the resignation of their commander, a half-brother of
outgoing President Saleh, witnesses said.
Hundreds gathered outside the residence of Yemen's acting leader Abd-Rabbu
Mansour Hadi, calling for General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar to be dismissed
while others sat in the road, preventing cars from circulating.
The strike is part of a wave that has gripped Yemen over the past month,
after Saleh signed a Gulf-brokered deal formally handing power to his deputy
Hadi in November.
Political turmoil has deepened an existing humanitarian crisis in Yemen,
which has half a million people displaced by various internal conflicts,
including fighting between government troops and Islamists in the south of
UNICEF's director for Middle East and North Africa Maria Calivis told a news
conference in Sanaa on Tuesday that 500,000 Yemeni children are now at risk
of death due to malnourishment.
(Reporting by Saleh al-Shaibany in Muscat and Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa;
writing by Isabel Coles; editing by David Stamp)
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Received on Tue Jan 24 2012 - 09:33:23 EST