Story highlights

NEW: Officials from both countries confirm his arrival

Saleh's plane landed to refuel at a United Kingdom commercial airport earlier Saturday

The purpose of Saleh's U.S. trip is a "private medical visit"

Saleh is expected to step down from power in Yemen next month

CNN —  

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in the United States on Saturday, marking the latest phase in a series of political moves surrounding his transition from power in violence-wracked Yemen.

His arrival was confirmed by Yemen’s foreign press office and U.S. State Department spokesman Noel Clay.

The embattled president is expected to remain in the United States for a short time, while he undergoes medical treatment, Clay said.

Earlier in the day, Saleh’s plane landed to refuel at a United Kingdom commercial airport, according to a Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesman who declined to be named, citing agency policy.

The purpose of Saleh’s U.S. trip is a “private medical visit,” according to the Yemeni Embassy in Washington. It said he plans to return to Yemen in February.

Saleh was wounded in a June bomb attack on his presidential palace.

The United States does not want to come across as providing safe haven to a dictator responsible for a violent, deadly crackdown on an uprising, according to a source with knowledge of the deliberations.

The decision was made in hopes that Saleh’s departure from Yemen could ease tensions in the country and help pave the way toward elections next year, the official said.

Analysts have said the visit could incite further violence, weaken U.S. standing, and potentially help empower al Qaeda, against whom Saleh has been seen as an ally.

Earlier this month, Yemen’s parliament approved a controversial law that ensures Saleh complete immunity from prosecution.

The law was delayed for weeks as he insisted on specific changes guaranteeing his aides partial protection from legal actions.

In return, the president is expected to step down from power in Yemen next month after ruling the country for more than 33 years.