Yemen Opposition Will Back Power Transfer to Vice President

Yemen’s Joint Meeting Parties, the main opposition coalition, said it supports the move to transfer power to Vice President Abduraboo Mansur Hadi after the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Saudi Arabia.

Saleh is being treated in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for injuries sustained when a rocket struck a mosque in his compound on June 3. Hadi is assuming Saleh’s duties “until the president returns,” Abdu Janadi, the deputy information minister, said in a phone interview. Saleh is recovering and will return in the “coming days,” Hadi said, according to the state-run Saba news agency.

The opposition parties don’t consider the transfer to be a temporary handover, underscoring confusion as to who holds power in the country. The attack followed months of violence between Saleh’s forces and protesters demanding his resignation after 33 years in power, inspired by successful revolts against longtime leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

“It is premature to say that he is completely out of the picture,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis said today. “He left for medical reasons, not political, and there is a big difference between the two. The family members that remained in the country appear to be the ones that make the regime function.”

The elite Republican Guards are led by Saleh’s son Ahmed, while another son Khalid leads an infantry regiment. Nephews control senior positions in the military, security and intelligence agencies.

‘No Objection’

“We have no objection that power is transferred to Hadi in line with the constitution and the Gulf Cooperation Council plan,” Mohammed Qahtan, spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties, said in a phone interview today. If that doesn’t happen, the group will seek to form a transitional government, he said.

Tareq al-Shami, a ruling-party spokesman, denied reports in local media that a transition is being planned while Saleh and other top officials are abroad.

The attack on the mosque killed 16 people and injured more than 100, Janadi said. Doctors removed two pieces of wooden shrapnel from Saleh’s body, he said.

GCC Secretary-General Abdel Latif al-Zayyani called for restraint to prevent a further deterioration in security after Saleh’s departure. All parties should “renounce violence,” he said in an e-mailed statement today.

Mediated Truce

Continued violence threatens a cease-fire between Saleh s loyalists and anti-government tribal forces. Saudi King Abdullah mediated a truce between the warring forces on June 3, according to tribal fighters.

Clashes continued overnight and three people were killed as armed men fought near the vice-president’s house with soldiers from a division that has defected to join the protesters, said Khalid Mohammed, a witness to the clashes. Gunfire and explosions were heard in the northern part of the capital, where Saleh’s forces have been fighting with those loyal to tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar.

Fighting in the Arabian Peninsula country escalated in the past two weeks after Saleh refused to sign a GCC plan calling for him to step down within 30 days and turn leadership over to Hadi in exchange for immunity from prosecution. It was the third time GCC-led talks had failed.

The six-member Arab Gulf bloc abandoned efforts to broker peace in Yemen after Saleh refused to sign the accord on May 22. Gunmen supporting al-Ahmar, leader of the country’s most influential tribe, battled security forces after the collapse of GCC mediation efforts.

The GCC consists of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

(Updates with comment from vice president in second paragraph. See EXTRA and MET for more on the regional unrest.)
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