Saleh rejects Gulf Concil deal to step down

Embattled Yemeni Prez rejected a plan for his exit mooted by Gulf states plunging his strife-torn nation into a new crisis.

Last Updated: Apr 08, 2011, 20:08 PM IST

Saana: Embattled Yemeni President Ali
Abdullah Saleh on Friday rejected a plan for his exit mooted by
Gulf states plunging his strife-torn nation into a new crisis,
as tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets in pro
and anti-regime protests.

Terming the exit plan mooted by Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) states as "blatant interference in Yemeni
affairs", Saleh told a pro-regime rally in the capital Saana
"we were born free and we have a free will and they have to
respect our wishes," Al-Jazeera channel reported.

A defiant Yemeni President said, "We reject any coup
against democracy, the constitution and our freedom."
He said, "My power comes from my people and not from
Qatar or anyone else."

Saleh`s about turn came just hours after his Foreign
Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi had welcomed the deal offered by
Qatar`s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani under
which Saleh would step down handing over powers to his deputy
and allowed to go into exile with his family.

The Yemeni President has been under mounting
international pressure to bow out and has already angered
Washington by his stubbornness and according to media reports
US has frozen a record USD 1 billion assistance package to
Yemen marking a sharp about-face in the American policy
towards its anti-terror ally.

The American freeze, Wall Street Journal said came as
Washington was on the verge of rolling out the aid package,
the largest ever bid at securing President Ali Abdullah
Saleh`s allegiance in its battle against al Qaeda in the
Arabian peninsula.

For US, the massive aid package was meant to hunt down
plotters of the `underwear` bombing in 2009 and the foiled air
cargo bombing plot in October and for Saleh, the money would
have helped shore up its political position and reward for
letting US special forces track down militants inside his
country, the paper said.

Just less than a mile, from where the Yemeni President
was addressing, thousands of anti-regime supporters gathered
waving placards asking him to step down.

But strong presence of his ultra-loyal Republican
Guards, who ringed him and troops of the dissident General Ali
Mohsin separated the two rallies and no clashes were reported.

Earlier, the Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi
said that the Yemen government was studying the initiative by
the GCC states to end the crisis in his country.

The US and its allies strongly backed the GCC deal,
which was to go through by next week after a meeting in
Saudi capital Riyadh between various groups in Yemen.

"The initiative of the Foreign Ministers of GCC is
being studied by the political leadership of our country,"
Kurbi was quoted as saying in a statement by Al-Jazeera.

The Minister said that any initiative aimed at finding
a solution to the crisis in his country was welcome.
Quoting US officials, the Wall Street Journal said the
American assistance package had been put on freeze due to the
outbreak of protests in Yemen and the Saleh`s heavy handed
approach in delaying with it.

"The Obama administration suspension of the new aid
puts a spotlight on the unravelling of a troubled anti-terror
alliance with a man who has ruled Yemen like a family fiefdom
for three decades," the daily said.

The US package included almost USD 200 million
counter-terrorism support this coming fiscal year and another
USD 155 million next year.

US officials are alarmed over the fast deteriorating
situation in Yemen where elite US trained Special Forces have
largely abandoned the fight against militants to protect the
capital against protesters.

The officials were aghast that Yemeni security forces
had abandoned about half of their compounds in the oil-rich
al Qaeda infested province of Shebwawhere militants are
reported to have seized government arsenal including heavy
artillery.

PTI