Yemeni general says president sabotaging transition deal

AFP , Monday 2 Jan 2012

Dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar says President Saleh intends to 'overthrow' the Gulf initiative and its implementation plan as government troops continue to battle with tribal forces

Tribesmen backing anti-government protesters gesture with their weapons as they escort protesters outside the central Yemeni city of Dhamar, during a protest march from the southern city of Taiz to the capital Sanaa, December 23, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

A dissident Yemeni general said on Monday that President Ali Abdullah Saleh wants to sabotage the Gulf-sponsored political transition plan that calls for him to formally resign in February.

The president intends "to overthrow the Gulf initiative and its implementation plan," said a statement from dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, one of Saleh's arch-rivals who defected from the army earlier this year in support of the mass protest movement demanding Saleh's ouster.

The proof is in the "continued bolstering of military units loyal to Saleh," the statement said noting the "refusal" by pro-Saleh troops to withdraw from the streets of Sanaa despite orders from the newly formed military commission created to restore order on the streets of the capital.

Residents in Sanaa said pro-Saleh snipers remain perched on rooftops and government troops in the volatile Hasaba district are still engaged in intermittent battles with tribal forces.

On Sunday, residents said the army fired shells near the home of the powerful tribal Shiekh Hemyar al-Ahmar, another Saleh opponent.

The latest clashes prevented the further dismantling of military barricades and checkpoints from Sanaa's streets, a clause in the Gulf plan intended to end the violence that since January has left hundreds dead and thousands more wounded.

In a statement published by Yemen's official news agency over the weekend, Saleh said he would "not allow the collapse of state institutions," in response to an increased number of protests within government institutions designed to unseat Saleh loyalists that continue to hold key positions.

Meanwhile, Yemeni officials, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Saleh cancelled a planned trip to the United States after a request by party members.

Last month, Saleh said he planned to travel to the US for talks on Yemen's upcoming election, scheduled for February 21, but US officials said his travel request would only be granted if there were "legitimate" medical reasons.

Saleh is still honorary president but handed authority over to his deputy last month when he signed the Gulf-brokered deal in which he won immunity from prosecution in exchange for ending his 33-year rule when polls are held in February.

Angry youths have staged defiant protests against the plan, insisting that Saleh stand trial and that all members of his regime be removed from their posts.

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