Yemen FM says no delay in presidential election

Yemen FM says no delay in presidential election
# 18 January 2012 23:32 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Yemen’s presidential elections will be held as scheduled toward the end of February, the foreign minister said on Wednesday, countering his own observation a day earlier, APA reports Associated Press.

Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, a veteran of President Ali Abdulla Saleh’s regime, told Al-Arabiya television on Tuesday that it would difficult to have presidential elections if the security situation is not resolved.

After a series of meetings with American and U.N diplomats, al-Qirbi backtracked, saying that his government was committed to holding presidential elections on February 21.

It appeared, however, that the subject was not closed.

A top ruling party official had also told The Associated Press that President Ali Abdullah Saleh met with high-level security officials this week and decided to ask parliament to delay the elections until May 22, which would be a violation of the U.S.-backed agreement the president signed in November. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Yemen has been in turmoil for a year over demands that longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh resign. In November, he signed a power transfer deal brokered by Yemen’s powerful Gulf neighbors and backed by the U.S., but he remains in office.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. regretted that Saleh has not complied with agreements to leave the country and allow an election for a successor.

Saleh, Yemen’s authoritarian leader of 33 years, agreed under pressure to sign the plan to transfer power to his vice president and hold presidential elections in February. The vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is the only candidate, and the election would rubber-stamp his takeover.

The agreement did not spell out that Saleh must leave the country, but Clinton’s remarks appeared to confirm what Yemeni officials close to Saleh have told the AP — alongside the Gulf-brokered deal, Saleh made a "gentleman’s agreement" with the United States to leave his country.

In late December, Saleh said he would leave Yemen to help calm the turmoil in his country, and he made a request for a visa to receive medical treatment in the United States, but officials in his ruling party later announced he would stay in Yemen.

Activists behind Yemen’s nearly year-old uprising demand Saleh step down and stand trial for the deaths of hundreds of protesters. They are not happy with the Gulf-brokered agreement, because it gives Saleh immunity from prosecution if he relinquishes power.