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Terrorism & Security

US, worried about Al Qaeda in Yemen, urges Saleh to step down immediately

With Yemeni violence persisting as President Saleh convalesces in Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recommended an immediate transition to a new government.

By Staff writer / June 7, 2011

A defected army soldier checks a car at a checkpoint in Sanaa, Yemen, on Monday, June 6. Violence threatened Yemen's capital with a return to chaos Monday with at least six opposition forces reported killed after a day of jubilation had gripped Sanaa with the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who traveled to Saudi Arabia over the weekend for medical treatment for wounds he suffered in a rocket attack on his compound.

Mohammed Al-Sayaghi/AP

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to allow an "immediate transition" to a new president and unity government, seeking to limit Yemen's political chaos. The US fears that Islamist militants are taking advantage of the power vacuum and upheaval in Sanaa to expand their network in the country's south.

“We think an immediate transition is in the best interests of the Yemeni people," Secretary Clinton said Monday in Washington, according to the Post.

Yemeni government officials insist that President Saleh will be home within days, but they are split over whether to support the establishment of a new unity government now or await Saleh's return. Saleh traveled to Saudi Arabia over the weekend for medical treatment after his presidential compound was shelled, leaving him with a collapsed lung and burns on 40 percent of his body, CNN reports.

The Washington Post reports that the foreign minister and Vice President Abdul Rabu Mansoor Hadi, the acting president while Saleh is recovering, said that Saleh's time was over and pushed for the establishment of a new interim government. Other officials said the proposal was equivalent to a coup.

The US has made it clear that it supports an end to Saleh's rule and the election of a new leader. The fact that violence did not stop with the departure of Saleh and temporary cessation of his strong-arm tactics underscores that Yemen's volatility extends well beyond opposition to Saleh's 32-year rule. Exacerbating the vacuum is the fact that there is no clear successor, Bloomberg reports.

“There’s a power vacuum that’s opening up,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “It’s probably the worst-case scenario because there’s no clear succession pattern that is acceptable to all parties.”

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