|United States says Saleh’s office requested that he be allowed to receive specialised medical treatment in the US [AFP]|
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will not travel to the United States, a senior aide has said, reversing a pledge by the leader who has withstood nearly a year of protests and military challenges from rivals seeking to topple him.
“The idea of President Saleh’s visit to America is now unlikely,” Abdu al-Janadi, a senior figure in Saleh’s political party and Yemen’s deputy information minister, told reporters on Wednesday.
He said members of Saleh’s party asked him to remain and help ensure that the deputy to whom Saleh has formally transferred power succeeds him in an election set for February.
“(They)…have asked the president not to travel under these circumstances because they fear that if he does, implementation of the Gulf initiative will bog down and the presidential election will be a failure,” Janadi said.
“His staying helps guarantee the success of the national unity candidate, [acting leader] Abed-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.”
Saleh announced he would visit the US last month; hours after forces loyal to him killed protesters demanding he face trial for killings during an uprising aimed at ending his 33-year rule.
He had insisted he was going in order to help calm tensions in his country, not for medical treatment.
Saleh would enjoy immunity from prosecution under a deal crafted by the Gulf Co-operation Council and backed by Washington, which long backed Saleh as a pillar of its “counter-terrorism” strategy, aimed at averting civil war by easing him from power.
In December, a senior US official said Saleh’s office requested that he be allowed to receive specialised treatment in the US for injuries sustained in a June attack on his compound.
The US said it was still considering giving Saleh a visa, a decision critics of the US administration’s Yemen policy have said lends the impression that Washington is sheltering Saleh.
Pressure has been mounting in recent weeks for Saleh to leave Yemen altogether.
Opponents say he has continued to wield influence through his loyalists and relatives still in positions of power, hampering the transition ahead of presidential elections set for February 21. Many feared he would find a way to continue his rule.
Washington and Saudi Arabia fear uncertainty over Saleh’s fate could push the country into chaos and embolden Yemen’s al-Qaeda wing, which has plotted attacks abroad.