Friday, 23 September 2011

President Saleh is back in Yemen and calling for a "truce"

Three months after an attempt on his life, Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh has returned home from Saudi Arabia, where he sought treatment. According to Yemeni media, Saleh arrived in Sana'a by private plane. Just hours after his return, a government spokesman said the president was calling for a “truce and a ceasefire.”

Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for over three decades, has faced growing criticism over his decision to remain in power, and months of protests urging him to step down. Experts say his return may cause an all-out civil war.

AFP news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying: “The president calls on all political and military parties to achieve a truce…There is no alternative to dialogue and negotiations to end the bloodshed and resolve the crisis.”

Today, shortly after Friday prayers, anti-government protesters and Saleh supporters took to the streets. The two sides are rallying within a few miles of each other, although it is thought that many opponents of the government have remained at home for fear of violence.

Protest organiser Mohammed al-Asl said Saleh's return would lead to "an escalation of violence". He added: “But let him come back - we want him to come back and be tried for his crimes.”

Anti-government protesters have been camping out in the capital's centre, in an area called Change Square, since January. The on-going conflicts between the two sides have recently intensified as Republican Guards, led by Saleh's son Ahmed, have taken to the streets in a bid to instil fear in the protesters.

It is estimated that more than 80 people have been killed since Sunday 18th September. Hopes of Saleh handing over power peacefully are fading fast as fears over the prospect of a civil war mount. On Tuesday 20th September, the government agreed a truce following talks with Western envoys. The ceasefire, however, was broken just hours later as security officials reportedly opened fire on protesters.

Speaking about the situation in Yemen, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said the country was at a "dangerous crossroads".

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

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