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Terrorism & Security

Yemen's Saleh could be away for months, complicating transition plans

Yemen's political opposition and protesters are pushing for an immediate transition amid reports that Saleh's injuries are worse than previously admitted. But his supporters are intent on his return.

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An extended absence from the country will likely speed up the political transition, The Washington Post reports. The US and Saudi Arabia will have more time to persuade him to resign and not return, and it may drive home to his supporters that his rule is over, mitigating their defiance. That may leave a window for the approval of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) proposal, which lays out a plan for a transitional government and new elections within 60 days of Saleh's resignation.

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The US hope is that the longer Saleh is out of the country, the more likely his supporters will be to realize that the GCC proposal is their best option. The political opposition has pushed acceptance of the proposal and said it will take it upon itself to appoint a transitional government and hold elections if Mr. Hadi does not take over the transition process, Bloomberg reports.

In Sanaa, the youth protesters who started the uprising in February see Saleh's departure from Yemen as an opportunity to push democratic reforms. “We have to take advantage of this moment,” Sanaa University student Riyad Zindani told The Washington Post. “A chance has been given to us on a plate of gold.”

Meanwhile, violence continues in Yemen's south, highlighting the precarious state that Saleh left the country in and the consequences if the power vacuum is not filled soon.

Militants and the Yemeni army clashed Tuesday in Abyan province in the far south, an Islamist militant stronghold. Taiz, in south-central Yemen, also saw violence. A truce in Sanaa, engineered by the Saudis on June 5, is still holding, but the mood in the capital is tense, The Washington Post reported. The Post adds that Saleh loyalists may be fostering the violence to illustrate what happens when Saleh is not leading the country.

UN children's agency UNICEF warned that months of unrest have left the country on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, Reuters reports. Widespread food shortages are endangering Yemeni children and fuel shortages are exacerbating the difficulty of transporting what food and water remain in the country.

UN agencies worry that the number of internally displaced Yemenis could climb as high as 40,000. Many of them are fleeing to the country's rural areas, which are barely capable of sustaining their full-time residents. In the south, there were reports of cholera.

"People are very, very distressed and very, very scared. People are comparing the situation with the previous wars in Yemen. They are scared of the violence and the looting," said Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF representative in Yemen.

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