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A Busy Sunday for Yemen - By : Abdullah Alasnag



The Gulf Arab states have extended an invitation on Sunday the 4th of April to the Yemeni government and opposition representatives for talks in the Saudi capital Riyadh in a bid to end the most dangerous and escalating crisis President Ali Abdullah Saleh has faced over his 33 year reign.

The offer was extended after a meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sunday, but no date has been set so far for the meeting.

On Sunday Yemeni security forces killed 17 protestors in Taiz through sniper fire and wounded over 500 in the same city. Witnesses say snipers opened fire from rooftops when protesters reached the governor's offices in the southern city of Taiz.

Reports say hundreds more people were wounded with bullets or tear gas. Witnesses say many of those shooting were police officers in plain clothes.

In Hudaidah earlier in the day, 2 were killed and more than 600 protestors were injured following a rally in the Red Sea city.  Forty-eight hours earlier another 580 protestors were wounded in Taiz and another rally was broken apart by force in Sana’a.

In Yemen, the GCC offer was viewed with disappointment by the protestors who have voiced their disapproval of the offer as a time wasting measure that will only give time to the beleaguered dictator Saleh. A protestor said “I don’t think the GCC leaders want to be viewed in Yemen as accomplices to this murderer (Saleh).”

The same attitude appears to be prevalent among protestors who view the GCC countries with respect and did not expect a show of support for Saleh by the GCC especially after the massacres committed by him and his forces in Aden, Sana’a, Taiz, Mukalla, Hodaidah, Abyan, Mareb, Shabwa, and Saada.

Many Yemeni leaders reaffirm that “Saleh has not been anything but trouble to the GCC countries to whom he exports drugs, weapons, counterfeit money, as well as money laundering and thus how can they support him.”

The politicians however dismissed the offer as too little too late, whereby a former senior GPC (ruling party) member Dr. Mohammed Qubati told Al-Hurra TV on Sunday night that the offer was made before the full scope of the Sunday massacre was revealed and that Saleh’s security, army, and hooligans are pursuing a bloodbath in Taiz, Aden, and other provinces.

A deal on Thursday which was offered by the opposition parties to Saleh to step down was rejected not only by Saleh but also by the protestors as it did not include the resignation of Saleh’s family members from their military and security posts.  It was also rebuffed by the Houthies in the north of Yemen.

As the GCC offer was made, a simultaneous notable development took place as the Obama administration condemned the latest violence against anti-government protesters in Yemen and urged authorities there to act with restraint.

In this regard, and for the first time the US has publicly called on Yemen's dictator to relinquish power sooner rather than later.  This was the first sign of a change in American policy whereby the comments from White House spokesman Jay Carney were the strongest yet from the US on Saleh.

The spokesman made it clear that the US is not basing its anti-terror effort in Yemen on individuals when he said "Our position with regards to working with the government of Yemen on counterterrorism efforts is that it is not and has not been focused on one person, nor should it be.”

This point in particular was voiced by the demonstrators in Yemen through an open letter to the White House on Saturday in which they voiced their dismay at American insistence on the continuation of Yahya Saleh and some of Saleh’s family members in their military posts as they oversee the anti-terror efforts.  Time and again reliable sources in Yemen considered Al Qaeda elements in Yemen as a source of income to the Yemeni dictator and his men who has harboured and protected these elements to garner huge U.S. and Saudi financial support.  Therefore, the threat of an Al Qaeda terrorist attack to Yemen’s neighbours will always persist so long as Saleh and his men continue to run the country.  A case in point is that despite regional and international appeals seeking an immediate response to secure peaceful handover of power to an interim caretaking authority, the dictator has continued the bloodbath and has resorted to attacking peaceful demonstrators in Taiz, Sana’a, and Hodeidah.  Today, Tuesday April 5th, 2011 alone, the death toll of peaceful demonstrators has reached more than 20 and 600 wounded in Hodeidah, Taiz, and Sana’a.

In view of the critical situation prevailing in Yemen and the continued bloodbath maintained by the reckless dictator, the Europeans on their part also moved on Sunday to prevent the departures of Yemeni officials especially to Europe as sources confirmed that the Europeans rejected numerous Shingen visa applications by Yemeni officials who are preparing to leave the country seeking asylum.

Despite the recent statements and small steps taken by the US and the Europeans, the crisis in Yemen is worsening and the reaction expressed by the Arab Gulf states, UK, USA, and the entire world community is far less sufficient for avoiding a human catastrophe.

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