Monday, June 6, 2011

Fears That Saleh Will Return to Yemen

Updated at 7:30 p.m. edt

At least 80 British marines are on standby aboard a support ship off the coast of Yemen in case citizens from the United Kingdom have to be evacuated because of escalating violence, according to multiple media reports.

RFA Fort Victoria is already off the Yemeni coast, while another support vessel, RFA Argus, is nearby. The marines are believed to be aboard the Victoria. The RFA Cardigan Bay is also en route, the BBC reported.

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Updated at 5 p.m. edt

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today Yemeni President Abdullah Ali Saleh should not return to power, calling for a transition to democracy and stability in the Arabian country on the brink of civil war.

"Obviously I can't speculate on what President Saleh is going to do or say, but we do want to emphasize we're calling for a peaceful and orderly transition, a nonviolent transition that is consistent with Yemen's own constitution," Clinton said at a joint news conference with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

"And our position has not changed. It continues to remain the same. We think an immediate transition is in the best interests of the Yemeni people because the instability and lack of security currently afflicting Yemen cannot be addressed until there is some process that everyone knows is going to lead to the sort of economic and political reforms that they are seeking," Clinton added.

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European leaders urged today a true democratic transition for Yemen, amid concerns that Yemeni President Abdullah Ali Saleh may return to power after he heals from wounds suffered Friday in rocket attacks on his palace in Sanaa.

"We call on the Yemeni people to find the way to reconciliation in a spirit of dialogue and national unity, in particular on the basis of the proposals presented in the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s initiative, which we fully support, in order for the Yemeni people to be able to democratically choose its leader," European leaders said in a statement.

The statement was signed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Saleh fled to Saudi Arabia for surgery after the attack on his palace, leaving Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in charge. Saleh, 65, reportedly caught shrapnel in the chest during the rocket attacks.

Opposition tribal leaders and pro-democracy activists all cringed when Yemen's Deputy Information Minister Abdu al-Janadi declared Saleh would return to power before he officially steps down permanently. "Saleh is in good health, and he may give up the authority one day but it has to be in a constitutional way," according to media reports.

"I don't know what will happen," a spokesman identified for his protection only as Hamid told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "Everyone is waiting for the president to come to Yemen, but no one knows what is going to happen. Everyone is worried about the situation, about what's going to happen now."

More than 370 people have died in Yemen since protests started earlier this year.

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