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Daily Israel Report

Yemen: Saleh's Big Tease

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh keeps hinting at his imminent return but won't set a date.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 8/30/2011, 12:15 AM

A spokesman for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he plans to return to Yemen following the investigation into his attempted assassination, from which he has been recovering in Saudia Arabia.

The announcement follows claims weeks ago by the Yemeni government it had completed the investigation, accusing two leading opposition figures of planning the June palace bombing that left Saleh with severe burns and shrapnel wounds.

However, Saleh's government switched gears Sunday, saying the investigation was nearly complete. Abdu Ganadi, the government spokesman, did not indicate when it would be finished or whether those previously accused were still regarded as suspects.

"I cannot give you a specific time when President Saleh will arrive. But I can assure you that after the palace bombing investigation is over, the president will be back," Ganadi said.

Saleh intimated he would be looking to exact revenge on those who attempted to kill him upon his return in a televised speech several weeks ago, but he has continued to evade the big question - when will he return?

Yemen's political crisis started January 16, when youth protesters took to the streets demanding Saleh's resignation. Fears of all-out civil war have risen in recent months as government forces and people alleged to be Hashed tribesmen fought each other in the capital.

Saleh, who has been faced with widespread anti-government sentiment and militant activity, has been urged to accept a transition plan brokered by the six-Member Gulf Cooperation Council that will lead to his departure.

Many see the timing of Ganadi's announcement as a ploy by Saleh intended to delay his stepping down from power. Saleh said in March he would leave office by the end of the year.

"If Saleh leaves office before the end of the year, history will report it that he was ousted by the revolution," said Ali Abdul Jabbar, an analyst and the director of the Sanaa-based Dar Ashraf Research Center.

Opposition members, though, see it as a way for Saleh to avoid returning to Yemen to face possible criminal prosecution.

"The opposition and revolution youth hope that Ali Abdullah Saleh comes back to Yemen so that they can try him for all the crimes he committed against the people over the last 33 years," said Hamid al-Ahmar, a leading opposition figure.

Ahmar, the opposition's wealthiest businessman, and Ali Mohsen, the most powerful military leader in the country, were accused by the Yemeni government on August 18 of planning the palace attack.