Former president demands foes leave Yemen

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks on December 24, 2011, in the capital Sanaa.

Story highlights

  • Saleh agreed to transfer power in November
  • Yemen joined the wave of popular uprisings known as the Arab Spring
  • The former president says his enemies must leave the country as well
Yemen's former president says he will not leave his country unless his political, tribal, and military foes leave as well, a senior aide to the ex-president told CNN Thursday.
Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh said the condition was agreed to in a secret deal struck last May at the residence of Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who was recently elected as the new president of Yemen, said the aide, who asked not to be named.
Saleh named Gen. Ali Mohsen, military commander of the country's northern and eastern regions, as the first on the list of officials who must leave the country.
Others include four brothers from the prominent Ahmar family who were involved in a fierce war against Saleh's forces last May before the president was seriously wounded and burned in an assassination attempt at the presidential palace amid battles between government forces and tribal fighters.
Saleh's demands that his enemies depart Yemen come as tens of thousands of youth activists protested this week, demanding that Saleh be prosecuted.
The unrest in Yemen began in 2011 as the population got caught up in the Arab Spring uprisings that swept North Africa and the Middle East. Protesters called for an end to Saleh's 33-year rule.
Abdu Ganadi, the spokesman for Saleh's ruling General People Congress party (GPC), said that Saleh's stance does not represent the official position of the party, but is a condition that Saleh has put on the table in exchange for him leaving the country.
"With the attendance of the U.S. ambassador in Yemen, the opposition officials promised to leave the country if Saleh left," Ganadi told CNN.
Saleh said Yemen cannot restore stability and security as long as the elements of the one-year political impasse stay in the country.
A deal for Saleh to leave power, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia in November, did not include such a stipulation. After several weeks of maneuvering, Saleh finally signed the GCC power transfer agreement in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Saleh is currently the president of the GPC party and since stepping down from power has provoked the anger of the country's opposition with continuous involvement in the political scene.
"The opposition will not be involved in any national dialogue if Saleh is atop of the GPC. The country revolted against him so it is impossible to involve him in any dialogue," said Mohammed Qahtan, former spokesman for the opposition Joint Meeting Parties.
"He stands behind the killing of innocent Yemenis and the revolution is incomplete if he remains in the political picture," Qahtan said.
Saleh's relatives still hold key military and governmental posts with more than 180,000 troops under their command.
Asked about the report of a secret deal, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Thursday she "can't speak to" Saleh's "political future in Yemen." As long as Saleh respects "the process that the Yemeni people have endorsed and that is ongoing, we don't have a view one way or the other about whether he stays in the country," she said.
"We want to see him play a constructive role in supporting the democratization process in Yemen," Nuland said.
Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, with a severe shortage of water and rising levels of malnutrition among its population of about 25 million.
Before he left office, Saleh faced a separatist movement in the south, sectarian tensions in its north and the growing presence of what Western officials describe as al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.