Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Embattled president urges dialogue

Defected soldiers salute during a protest demanding the resignation of Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
Defected soldiers salute during a protest demanding the resignation of Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)

Yemen's ailing president Ali Abdullah Saleh has called for an end to months of street protests seeking his removal and urged dialogue during the holy month of Ramadan to end the crisis.

Mr Saleh's statement, published on the state news agency, was delivered from his hospital bed in Saudi Arabia, where he has been receiving treatment for serious burns and other wounds he suffered in a June 2 attack on the presidential compound.

Yemen is reeling from nearly six months of protests by activists calling for Mr Saleh to put an end to his 33 years in power.

The crisis has sparked armed conflict between Mr Saleh's forces and heavily armed tribesmen who have turned against him, further destabilising the already fragile and impoverished country. And there are fears that Yemen's al Qaida offshoot will gain from the turmoil and have a freer hand in plotting attacks on the West.

With Ramadan starting, Mr Saleh appealed to the spirit of the month of reconciliation and piety and urged his opponents to embrace yet another round of dialogue.

"In this religious occasion, we assert our call for all political forces on the scene to take up dialogue as the only exit and the best means to resolve crises and disputes, and differences," he said. "There is no alternative to dialogue, stemming from national principles and the constitution."

Organisers of the street protests have refused earlier offers of dialogue.

Mainstream opposition political parties have taken part only to see Mr Saleh back out of a deal at the last minute on several occasions.

Nonetheless, in Sunday's Ramadan message, Mr Saleh said the deal, mediated by Gulf Arab nations, should still be the basis for talks. It calls for him to transfer power within a month of signing a deal in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Mr Saleh sounded a defiant tone, saying change will not come under fire. "The change everyone is seeking won't come through violence, spreading hate and envy, the mentality of coups and conspiracies, liquidation of opponents or sowing seeds of sedition," he said. "Let's move on. ... Yemen won't get out of this crisis amid tension, holding ground in protests in the streets of the capital, which is uncivilised."

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