Ali Abdullah Saleh
Ali Abdullah SalehReuters

True to his modus operandi, former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh may or may not being going into exile in Ethiopia.

Tarek Al Shami, a spokesman for the General People's Congress party, told Gulf News that Saleh would stay in Yemen to lead his party.

"The former president is now receiving throngs of people who are greeting him on the peaceful transfer of power. If he had such an intention [seeking exile], you would have heard about that from our website.”

"The former president has formed a committee to count and catalog all his personal gifts which will be sent to Al Saleh mosque and will be displayed there."

Al Shami's statement ran counter to reports from Saleh's own staff on Wednesday that the ousted president would go into exile in a villa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia "within 48 hours."

Such rapid course changes – called a “Crazy Ivan” by US submarine commanders during the Cold War – are routine for Saleh, who once referred to his 33-year rule of Yemen as “dancing on the heads of snakes.”

Saleh backed out of the US-backed transfer of power deal brokered by the six-member Gulf Cooperation three times, announced he would not return to Yemen from Saudi Arabia days before doing so, and bluntly said he would not depart for medical treatment in the US shortly before traveling to New York.

The Al Wasat weekly newspaper claimed Wednesday that Saleh had refused to undergo a cosmetic surgery and another operation to mend his vocal cords during his visit to New York and only had a routine medical test.

The paper said that Saleh was worried that the surgeries could take a long time and prevent him from attending Wednesday's transfer of power ceremony.

Opposition leaders boycotted the ceremony saying that Saleh was using it to give the impression he had voluntarily given up power rather then being forced out of office.

Sources close to the office of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi told reporters that Yemeni officials had asked Security Council members to dissuade Saleh from returning to Yemen at all.

Opposition leaders and members of the transitional government have expressed concern that Saleh, should he remain, will use his network of powerful and well-placed contacts to exercise influence in the country.

It was reported that financial pressure from several unnamed world powers for Saleh to go into exile had been brought to bear, namely threats to freeze his assets.

Analysts say Saleh is likely trying to delay his departure in an attempt to save face and make it appear, when he eventually leaves, it was of his own accord.

Meanwhile, Hadi's office denied that the former president had looted the possessions of the presidential palace before handing it over to his successor.