Yemen crisis worsens as Saleh loyalists trap US ambassador
Yemen's President Saleh again rejected a deal to transfer power and allowed armed supporters to surround an embassy where the US ambassador was meeting with European and Arab envoys.
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At the palace, top officials from Yemen's ruling party signed the accord. Saleh was expected to sign but did not. On state television, he later said he refused an agreement signed "behind closed doors" and demanded that opposition leaders be present.Skip to next paragraph
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Representatives from the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), a coalition of Yemen's establishment political parties, signed the deal Saturday. They've refused to enter the presidential palace while Saleh is at the helm.
"If they don't comply, they are dragging us to a civil war, and they will have to take responsibility for the bloodshed in the past and the blood which will be spilled later on because of their stupidity," Saleh warned in an address carried by state television.
Yemeni protesters critical of Obama
Saleh had been a close US ally in the fight against the Al Qaeda terror network.
Perhaps because of Saleh's help with counterterrorism efforts, President Obama's administration has appeared at times reluctant to press too hard for Saleh to go, Yemeni activists complain. Obama barely mentioned Yemen in his much-publicized speech Thursday on the rebellions spreading through the Middle East.
The Obama administration backed the plan put forward by the GCC, a consortium of Arab Gulf nations, which calls for Saleh to resign and transfer power to his vice president within 30 days. In exchange, Saleh would receive immunity from prosecution. At least three times, Saleh has agreed to sign the accord, only to back out at the last minute.
After the latest collapse Sunday, which coincided with Yemeni Nation Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the president's insistence that Saleh step down.
"President Saleh is a cat with more than nine lives," said a Washington-based US official who visited the region earlier this month. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to make public statements on the issue.
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Even with a deal with Saleh, the American official said, a transition period is likely to be tumultuous, with Yemeni officials less focused on tracking down members of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemen wing is called.
"A successor government may become far more preoccupied with very legitimate domestic priorities – creating a new government, holding elections, trying to prevent the economy from going even further downhill – and that may mean taking their eye off the terrorist threat that worries us so much," the American official said.
Already, he added, "our counterterrorism cooperation with Yemen is less intense because they're so distracted by the domestic crisis."
Baron, a special correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, reported from Sanaa, Yemen. Allam reported from Cairo.
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