AL Arabiya news channel
US fears, Qaeda combine as Saleh stays on in YemenTuesday, 29 March 2011
Scoffing at pressure to quit at a time of growing insecurity, as highlighted by the blast at an ammunitions plant in southern Yemen where Islamists seemed to have driven out government forces, Saleh challenged his opponents to leave the country instead, in remarks published on Tuesday.
"I tell those who appear in the media asking others to leave, that it is up to them to go," said the embattled president, quoted on state news agency Saba, branding his rivals as nothing more than "paid agents and collaborators".
But the main coalition of opposition groups said Saleh was to blame for the presence of militants, including al-Qaeda, in Abyan province, where the blast took place.
"We condemn this ugly crime and accuse the president and his people of involvement with al-Qaeda and armed groups to whom government institutions have been handed over in Abyan. The chaos was planned in advance," it said in a statement.
"Saleh's continuation in power is a danger to Yemen, its people and international interests," the group added.
Saleh, who has been alternately conciliatory and defiant, has vowed in public to make no more concessions to opponents demanding he step down.
A perennial survivor of civil wars and militancy, he has said Yemen could slide into armed conflict and fragment along regional and tribal lines if he leaves office immediately.
But protesters who have been camped out around Sanaa University since early February also said they found the withdrawal of security and officials in some areas suspicious and accused Saleh of fomenting strife for political reasons.
"Saleh wants to scare us and the world with chaos, which he has started causing in some areas," said Ali Abdelghani, 31, a civil servant among thousands of protesters in Sanaa.
"But we are capable of exposing this game. There are popular committees in all provinces to bring security as the president has removed security in some places for chaos to spread."
Dozens of policemen and soldiers from different units joined the protests on Tuesday, milling around and chanting slogans such as "The people want the fall of the regime" and "The police and army are partners in providing daily needs".
On Monday, Saleh's son-in-law Yahya Mohammed Ismail also joined the protesters.
Saleh the bulwark
Yemen's al-Qaeda wing claimed responsibility for a foiled attempt in late 2009 to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit, and for U.S.-bound cargo bombs sent in October 2010.
Washington warned on Sunday that the fall of Saleh would pose a "real problem" for the United States.
"I think it is a real concern because the most active and at this point perhaps the most aggressive branch of al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, operates out of Yemen," said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
A top opposition figure in parliament, Mohammed Sabri, said: "The U.S. defense minister's exaggeration of al-Qaeda has encouraged the regime."
The opposition say they believe Saleh is maneuvering to avoid limits on his family's future activities and a guarantee they would not face legal action over corruption.
"We are on the path to completing a deal," an opposition figure said on Monday. "The president is trying to improve the negotiating conditions, especially relating to the situation of his sons and relatives."
The deal, if reached, probably would involve the resignation of Saleh and General Ali Mohsen, a kinsman and former ally who defected then sent troops to protect the protesters last week.