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US calls for 'immediate' power transfer in Yemen

US Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman stressed the need for an "immediate" transfer of power in Yemen, echoing calls for VP Hadi to replace Saleh temporarily

AFP , Thursday 23 Jun 2011
Yemen's Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi (R) talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman (2nd L) in Sanaa, Wednesday, (Reuters).
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Views: 1646

A top US official called Thursday for an "immediate" power transfer in Yemen, as a Western diplomat said President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded by one of many bombs planted in a mosque.

Echoing demands by the Yemeni opposition, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs Jeffrey Feltman said: "We continue to believe that an immediate, peaceful, and orderly transition is in the best interest of the Yemeni people."

"We urge all sides to engage in dialogue that peacefully moves Yemen forward," he told reporters in Sanaa after a meeting with Yemeni Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

Feltman's statements come amid growing local and international pressure on Hadi to assume power after embattled Saleh was flown to Riyadh for treatment for wounds suffered when a bomb exploded as he prayed at his palace mosque on June 3.

A Western diplomat said on Thursday that the blast was caused by one of many bombs planted in the mosque, adding that others had remained unexploded.

Saleh was wounded by a TNT explosive, the diplomat said in Sanaa, asking not to be identified.

A Yemeni security official confirmed that some bombs did not go off.

"Five explosives planted inside the mosque and another planted outside did not explode," he told AFP.

Feltman said the United States "is providing support to the Yemenis in the investigation", which the diplomat said will take "months."

US experts on June 9 said the attack was an assassination bid, probably an "inside job" using an improvised explosive device.

STRATFOR, a US-based authority on strategic and tactical intelligence issues, said its assessment was based on an evaluation of photographs taken of the blast site.

Other top Yemeni officials, including Prime Minister Ali Mohammad Mujawar and consultative council chief Abdulaziz Abdulghani, were wounded in the blast that killed 11 people and injured another 124.

The 69-year-old Saleh has made no public appearance since the attack, sparking speculation concerning his situation and casting doubts over the possibility of his return to power.

But Hadi's grip on power is strongly questioned as relatives of Saleh continue to run main security systems. Key among them is Saleh's son, Ahmed, who leads the elite Republican Guard.

"The United States supports the initiative proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a credible path to confront the challenging political situation in Yemen," said Feltman.

"We encourage all parties to move swiftly to implement the terms of the agreement so the Yemeni people can soon realise the security, unity, and prosperity that they have so courageously sought and so richly deserve," he added.

Despite strong Western pressure, Saleh has repeatedly refused to sign the GCC-brokered transition plan under which he would hand power to his deputy Hadi within 30 days in exchange for a promise of immunity from prosecution.

Parliamentary opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan affirmed that "the Americans support the immediate transfer of power according to the Gulf-brokered initiative under which Hadi will be interim president while a new government is formed."

"The vice president is facing obstacles and difficulties. We believe that all Yemenis support him, except for (Saleh's) sons who are holding on to hereditary authority," Qahtan told AFP.

Qahtan said the opposition has "heard" of a meeting that took place between Feltman and Ahmed during the US official's visit but "Ahmed has no constitutional authorities. Our revolution was necessary because Yemen would have become a monarchy."

In addition to Hadi, Feltman said he had met Yemen's Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi, "as well as representatives from the civil society, student members of the opposition, business leaders and other foreign diplomats."

The US official did not however confirm that he has met Ahmed.

"As Yemen's transition moves forward, the United States looks forward to continuing and developing its partnership with the government and people of Yemen," he said.

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