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Yemeni vice president assures elections will go on as planned

By Hakim Almasmari, For CNN
updated 9:03 PM EST, Tue January 17, 2012
Anti-government protesters demand the trial for Yemen's outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, on January 16, 2012.
Anti-government protesters demand the trial for Yemen's outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, on January 16, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Clinton says the Yemeni president has "failed to comply with his own commitments"
  • The foreign minister had hinted at an election delay
  • Some accuse President Saleh of delaying power transfer

(CNN) -- Yemeni officials on Tuesday downplayed rumors that next month's presidential elections in Yemen would be delayed, the same day U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faulted the Yemeni president for failing to fulfill his commitment to leave the country.

Any delay in the elections are unacceptable by all standards, senior officials in Vice President Abdurabu Hadi's office said.

The statement comes after Yemen's foreign minister hinted that presidential elections could be delayed due to the rising tension in the country.

"I am among those who hope that (the presidential election) will take place in the planned manner," Abubakr al-Qirbi said in an interview on al-Arabiya TV on Tuesday. "But unfortunately, there are a couple of events relating to security, and if they are not solved ... it will be difficult to run the elections on February 21."

Hadi's office called Qirbi's comments unnecessary.

Yahya al-Arasi, media officer for the vice president, told CNN that elections are essential for Yemen and the vice president has no plans to delay elections under any circumstance.

"It's unrealistic and unacceptable to delay the presidential elections," al-Arasi said.

He added, "If elections are delayed, Yemen will again start from step one, and the unexpected would take place."

CNN contacted Qirbi's office and they assured that his comments come independently and not in favor of any certain political faction in the country.

Hadi is expected to win the country's February 21 elections.

Qirbi's announcement also raised fears within opposition groups that President Ali Abdullah Saleh is again using tactics to stay in power.

Under the terms of a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered deal, Saleh has agreed to step down as president on February 21 in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

"We regret that the president has thus far failed to comply with his own commitments to leave the country and to permit elections to go forward, that could give the people a chance to be heard and be represented," Secretary of State Clinton told reporters.

Speaking in the Ivory Coast, she also addressed why what happens in Yemen is significant to regional stability.

"We remain focused on the threat posed by al Qaeda in Yemen, and we'll continue to work with our partners there and elsewhere to ensure that al Qaeda does not gain a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula through actions that would undermine the stability of Yemen and the region," she said.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Abu Lahoum, president of the opposition Justice and Building party said any call for delaying the elections is unwise. He said that delaying the presidential elections would only deepen the Yemeni crisis.

"Delaying the presidential elections is completely against the GCC power transfer and will delay any sort of stability to Yemen," said Abu Lahoum.

Analysts are worried that Saleh is seeking to delay the elections to buy him more time in power.

"The GCC power transfer signing was delayed six times in 2011, and Saleh benefited the most from the delays. For Saleh, it's never really over," said Ali Abdul Jabbar, director of the Sana'a based Dar Ashraf Reaserch Center.

Abdul Jabbar said that Saleh was hoping to control Yemen indirectly after stepping down from power, but the tension between him and Hadi made that impossible.

"Saleh will do all that in his power to derail the elections for as long as he can. He has everything to lose," he said.

The U.N.-backed power transition plan was signed in November and designed after more than a year of political and economic unrest.

The election planned for net month will put an end to Saleh's 33 years in power.

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