Backers of Yemen’s Saleh protest against U.S.
Thousands of supporters of Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Shiite Houthi rebels took to the streets on Friday to protest possible U.N. sanctions against the ousted strongman and rebel chiefs.
Saleh, who was forced to resign in early 2012 after a year of popular demonstrations, is being blamed for the ongoing chaos in Yemen.
He is especially suspected to have helped the Houthi rebels take the capital Sanaa and extend their control over major parts of the country.
Friday’s demonstration came ahead of a deadline at the U.N. Security Council for member states to raise objections to imposing sanctions on Saleh and two key Houthi rebel leaders.
All 15 Security Council members must approve sanctions for them to take effect.
The protesters in Sanaa – in much smaller numbers than usual – carried posters urging the U.S. ambassador to leave the country, the Associated Press reported.
Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress, said this week the former leader received an ultimatum from the U.S. embassy in Sanaa to leave Yemen by Friday or face sanctions.
But a State Department spokesman dismissed those claims as “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.
Saleh served as Yemen’s first president after unification in 1990 but quit under a regional peace plan.
The Houthi rebels fought Saleh while he was in power but the former foes now appear to be allies.
A report published by Al Arabiya News last month revealed how Saleh was “actively helping the Houthi rebels take over the country as part of his plan to return to power.”
The report gave details of a “secret” meeting between Saleh and Houthi leaders in which both parties set up plans to convince regional powers, especially Saudi Arabia, about the events in Yemen.
The Houthis reportedly asked Saleh to assign some of his aides well-known to Riyadh “to try to deceive the Saudi leadership into believing that developments in Yemen were under control and that the Houthis can be removed from power if the kingdom entrusts him [Saleh] with this role.”
The objective of this plot, according to the report, is to “shake confidence among Houthi opponents –who might be backed by Saudi Arabia – in order to create a situation that is mutually beneficial for both Saleh and the Houthis.”