Saleh Will Return to Yemen When Recovered
Saudi officials say embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will return to his country after completing his recovery.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 8/10/2011, 5:55 PM
Saudi Arabia's state-run news agency Wednesday announced Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will return to his country after a recovery period determined by his doctors.
Saleh has been recovering in Saudi Arabia from wounds suffered in an assassination attempt in the mosque of the presidential palace in Sanaa at the peak of fighting between loyalist forces and opposition protesters demanding an end to his 33 year rule.
Meanwhile, an official in Yemen's presidential office denied a report in the London-based pan-Arab newspaper A-sharq Al-Awsat that US officials convinced Saleh not to return to Yemen.
Earlier Yemeni officials said the US and Saudi Arabia have pressured Saleh to stay in Saudi Arabia.
Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday the US and Saudis have warned Saleh that his return to Yemen would likely spark a civil war.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, irrespective of what Saleh decides, he should immediately pursue the implementation of a transition of power.
"All we can do is continue to press our belief that this transition needs to happen immediately and cannot wait until a decision is made about his [Saleh's] future," Toner said. "So, what we're working on, through our embassy and our ambassador, is trying to move the process forward now, rather than wait."
US officials have found themselves between a rock and a hard place in that they can be seen to back a dictator against a popular opposition movement or risk the counter-terror cooperation Saleh has consistently provided since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
Yemeni officials in Sana'a said that even though Saleh has spent the last two months in a Saudi hospital, he continues to run the country with the help of his family and is in daily contact with tribal chiefs and army commanders.
"The president reluctantly caved in to American and Saudi pressure to stay on in Saudi Arabia," said one official who is close to Saleh. "He will continue to listen to them until he makes a full recovery from his wounds and then decide what to do."
In Washington, a US official cast doubt on the idea of American pressure on Saleh to stay on in Riyadh after his release from the hospital on Sunday.
"It is more likely that any persuasion used successfully with Saleh came from the Saudis," an official speaking on condition of anonymity said.
Saudi Arabia, a key member of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, shares a border with Yemen and has eyed the destabilization of the country and rise of terrorist elements there with great concern.
Saleh has, on more than one occasion, backed out of a GCC-brokered deal that would see him leave power.