Former Yemeni leader asks Gulf states for safe exit

Ali Abdullah Saleh seeks safe passage after being linked to Houthi rebels fighting for control of Yemen.

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has sent messages to Arab Gulf states, asking for a safe exit for himself and his family, sources told Al Jazeera.

Saleh, who was forced to step down in 2012 after a wave of protests against his rule, is said to be backing Houthi rebels who have seized the capital Sanaa and are battling forces loyal to embattled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia.

The message for safe passage was communicated by leaders of the General Popular Congress, including former Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, sources told Al Jazeera. Saleh has been leader of the GPC.

Sources said the request was rejected by Saudi Arabia, which is a member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and is leading a coalition that has bombed Houthi positions since March 26.

While not mentioning the request directly, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri, spokesman for the Saudi military told Al Jazeera that Saleh would have no role in Yemen’s future.

“Ali Abdullah Saleh is not part of the plan…nobody thinking logically can think he can be a part of the solution,” Asiri said.

 Can an arms embargo deter the Houthis?

“In the message Saleh seems to have actually told the Gulf leaders via his envoy that he has no ties whatsoever with the Houthis and he is not part of this war,” said Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

“Of course this contradicts to what he has said earlier when he sent his son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh just before the beginning of the [Saudi-led] airstrikes with the same offer, saying that he would abandon the Houthis.” 

The rebels are in control of the capital Sanaa, which they overran in September. In February, they put Hadi under house arrest, demanding he carry out political reforms. 

Hadi has continued to run Yemen affairs from Riyadh, and on Sunday appointed his former prime minister as vice president, just days after he carried out a shakeup in the top echelons of the country’s military.

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution imposing an arms embargo on the rebels and calling on them to withdraw from the areas they control. The resolution also blacklisted Saleh son’s, Ahmed, who faces a travel ban.

The rebels condemned the resolution, saying the decision supported “aggression”.

Source: Al Jazeera