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Yemen's Saleh Not Going to U.S. After All

Despite earlier reports, Yemen's President will remain in his country and not travel to the U.S. for medical treatment.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/5/2012, 10:17 AM

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh will not travel to the U.S. for medical treatment and will instead remain in his country, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Sheik Mohammed al-Shaif, a powerful tribal chief and leading member in the ruling General People’s Congress party, told The Associated Press that Saleh’s decision to remain in Yemen came after his party urged him not to leave.

The latest development comes one week after a senior official in the U.S. confirmed that Saleh plans to receive medical treatment in the U.S. and will be allowed to travel there. Earlier it was reported that there is an internal debate within the U.S. about whether to allow Saleh to enter the country.

Al-Shaif told AP that Saleh is needed in Yemen to implement the power transfer deal he recently signed. He added that officials in the Yemeni government had “urged President Saleh to refrain from traveling to the U.S. or elsewhere and told him that in this difficult time, they have requested his presence.”

“They believe that his travel will create a dangerous situation on the ground and for the party,” he added.

Saleh is said to be concerned that his relatives and backers will be purged from power and wants to remain in Yemen to torpedo that.

Saleh signed the power transfer deal in November, under international pressure. The deal stipulates that he hand over authority to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution for the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators. The deal still awaits approval by Yemen’s government, AP reported.

In the meantime, Saleh remains in office, though his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, ordered the formation of a new national unity government.

Opposition figures charge that Saleh is still trying to run the country, despite his signing the power transfer deal under heavy international pressure and after months of stalling. Several weeks ago, thousands of anti-regime protesters began a march from the second largest city of Taez to the capital of Sanaa, to demand that Saleh stand trial for killing protesters.