U.S. denies pressing Saleh to leave Yemen
Washington on Wednesday denied reports that it was pressuring Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been threatened with U.N. sanctions for obstructing peace, to leave the country.
Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress, said the ex-leader, who stepped down in early 2012 after a year of Arab Spring-inspired protests, received an ultimatum from the U.S. embassy in Sanaa to leave by Friday or face sanctions.
But a State Department spokesman said statements by the party spokesman about “alleged threats by the U.S. ambassador to former president Saleh to leave the country are completely false.”
“There have been no meetings between the ambassador and GPC officials at which any such statements have been made,” said U.S. spokesman Edgar Vasquez.
The GPC spokesman had denounced any such moves as “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Yemen.”
“It is an unacceptable demand because no foreign party has the right to request that a Yemeni leaves their country,” the GPC spokesman said in a statement.
The party said it had been approached by the American embassy through an intermediary telling Saleh to leave Yemen by 5:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Friday.
It called on Saleh’s supporters to mobilise in order to “face any eventuality.”
The development came only hours after diplomats in New York said the United Nations Security Council was poised to impose sanctions on Saleh for obstructing peace in Yemen.
A U.S.-drafted proposal to the Security Council would slap a visa ban and an assets freeze on Saleh and two of his allies, Shiite Huthi rebel commanders Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim.
A committee of the council met on Tuesday to discuss the proposed sanctions and the talks were “constructive,” a diplomat said.
The 15 members of the council now have until Friday evening to raise objections before the proposal returns to the sanctions committee for action.
Saleh served as Yemen’s first president after unification in 1990 before being forced to step down in February 2012 under a regional peace plan.
But he is seen as prime backer of the rebel Houthi movement that seized the capital Sanaa in September and has since spread its control into central and west Yemen, in defiance of a U.N. peace plan.
Vasquez added that the United States continued to support efforts by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah to form a government in a country seen as key in the fight against Al-Qaeda.