No Yemen Spring for now,Saleh to stay put

He had backed out of similar commitments before.

Written by New York Times | Beirut | Published:January 6, 2012 12:35 am

Less than two weeks after President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen said he would travel to the US for medical treatment and to calm tensions in his country,officials in his government said he had reversed course and would not travel because of escalating turmoil at home.

Yemeni officials and the state news agency framed Saleh’s decision as motivated by pleas from members of his party to stay and serve the “national interest.” Labor strikes and new violence in recent weeks had compounded a political crisis that began with a popular uprising against Saleh’s three decades of rule.

There had been hopes that Saleh’s departure might ease that crisis,especially among anti-government protesters who took to the streets demanding an end to Yemen’s entrenched politics of patronage and corruption. When he signed an agreement in November agreeing to leave power,many doubted Saleh,who has been president for 33 years,would follow through. He had backed out of similar commitments before.

Saleh handed over some of his duties to his deputy,Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi,but he retained much of his power,complicating Hadi’s work.

On December 24,soldiers opened fire on protesters marching from the city of Taiz in central Yemen to the capital,Sanaa,killing nine people. Hours later,Saleh,under pressure from domestic opponents and foreign leaders,said he would leave.

His decision to travel to the US attracted its own controversy. He was expected to receive medical treatment there,for wounds he sustained during an assassination attempt in June. Protesters,already furious about an immunity clause in the power-transfer deal,feared Saleh would use the trip to try to escape prosecution and perhaps lobby Washington to help him keep power.

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