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Yemen's Saleh promises to step down; skeptical West mulls sanctions

In an interview with French TV, Yemen's President Saleh promised to step down – again. Western nations may try sanctions to compel his departure as conditions in Yemen worsen.

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The months of unrest have also created the risk of a humanitarian crisis. Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour warned Saturday that a "hunger revolution" was looming, Xinhua reports. According to a report from Al Arabiya, earlier this year Yemen was the fourth lowest country in the Arab world on the UN human development index – and that was before the uprising began, disrupting access to water, food, and electricity. Almost half of Yemenis live below the poverty line, about a third don't get three meals a day, and more than a third are unemployed.

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… Relief supplies from the international community are not guaranteed to reach civilians, the looming humanitarian crisis is largely ignored by officials as the political situation take the spotlight on policy. Many areas remain inaccessible to aid organizations because of running battles. …

Persisting poverty, shortages of fuel, rising prices of food and water, and breakdown of public services have surfaced in various guises across the country over the last nine months.  … The prevailing political crisis has indeed led to an economic burden at large ─ the currency has crashed, and many well established businesses have shut off their operations, while others have raised their prices due to the shortage of goods. On the other hand, hospitals can’t operate at full capacity, as patients with intensive healthcare requirements cannot be admitted to hospitals due to electricity power cuts.
 Add to this the fact that the government has been forced to import almost entirely its fuel from neighboring countries, due to oil shortages after an antigovernment blew up oil pipeline in March.

In the absence of cooperation from Saleh, Western countries are considering sanctions on Saleh and his son Ahmed, who leads the Republican Guard, according to an unnamed diplomat interviewed by Agence France-Presse. The sanctions are intended to pressure them into agreeing to a peaceful solution.

In a piece for Foreign Policy, Jeb Boone, a freelance journalist in Sanaa until earlier this year, argued for the international community to freeze Saleh's assets. The international community's delay in exerting pressure on Saleh is "directly contributing to prolonging conflicts in Yemen's rural areas," writes Boone.

To stop further economic and political deterioration as well as reinstituting stability across the country, the international pressure on Saleh will have to increase. Freezing his assets is a good place to start, as many Yemeni protesters have harped on since February, but it may take much more. Members of his family are still deeply entrenched in positions of power in the military and other branches of the government. For a solution to be found, international pressure must also be exerted on them to relinquish their positions of power as well.

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