Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, facing an increasingly entrenched uprising against his rule, on Monday welcomed a U.N. Security Council resolution urging him to adopt a Gulf-mediated plan for him to transfer power, the state news agency reported.
Saleh has rejected three times so far the plan proposed by neighboring Gulf Arab states, which calls for a transition to early parliamentary and presidential elections after Saleh forms a new opposition-led cabinet and relinquishes the presidency.
“The Yemeni president... expressed his readiness to sit down immediately at the dialogue table with the Joint Meeting Parties (opposition parties) and its partners to complete the dialogue over the operational mechanism for the (Gulf) initiative as quickly as possible and to reach the final signing of the initiative and its immediate implementation, leading to early presidential elections on a date agreed upon by all,” the Yemeni news agency SABA said.
This was Saleh’s first response since the United Nations Security Council last week called on Saleh to adopt the plan.
Ruling Yemen since 1978 through a civil war and rebel movements, Saleh has clung on to power despite an assassination attempt that send him abroad for three months for medical treatment, defecting generals and nine months of street protests.
Armed confrontations between Saleh’s forces and armed opponents have intensified in the past weeks, raising fears that Saleh’s continued refusal to resign will push the deeply tribal country to an all-out civil war.
Two Yemeni soldiers were shot dead on Monday and three suspected Islamist militants were killed the night before in two sets of clashes in the south of the turbulent Arabian Peninsula state, security and tribal sources said.
Fighting has also resurged in the capital Sana’a in north Yemen, where forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh have for nine months battled protesters, tribesmen and dissident army factions bent on ending his 33-year rule.
Analysts see this as no more than wishful thinking as the president, seemingly oblivious to domestic and international pressure, has repeatedly refused to sign the Gulf deal.
“The U.N. resolution and the current level of regional and international pressures are not likely to change the situation in Yemen,” says analyst Abdulwahab Badrakhan.
“The Americans and the Saudis have still not put Saleh under direct pressure” to cede power, he said.
War on terror
Washington and Riyadh seem hesitant over the nature of the change needed in Yemen, home to al-Qaeda’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula, Badrakhan told AFP.
Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy director for the Brookings Doha Center, agrees that the United States and Yemen’s neighbor, regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, want “Yemen’s regime reformed rather than changed.”
The U.N. resolution is “the product of a U.S.-Saudi strategy to push Saleh out of power while keeping his regime (intact),” says the analyst.
Saleh has declared himself a U.S. ally in its “war on terror” as his troops, backed by U.S. drones, continue to battle the extremists in the country’s southern and eastern provinces.
The United States seems skeptical of the intentions of Yemen’s Islamist-dominated opposition to continue the war against al-Qaeda militants, said Sharqieh.
The Islah (Reform) party, the country’s main opposition political party, is believed to be Yemen’s version of the Muslim Brotherhood. The government accuses it of having its own armed militia in the current unrest.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is afraid of a youth-led revolution succeeding on its southern borders, Sharqieh said.
Saleh will most probably “officially announce that he agrees with the U.N. resolution while at the same time drag the country and his opponents into a war,” said Saqaf.
“We will see a military escalation in the coming days.”
“Saleh is looking at a post-war settlement and not relenting to a peaceful revolt,” he added.