Feb. 27, 2012
SANAA, Yemen—Aides to Ali Abdullah Saleh said Monday that the ousted Yemeni president plans to go into exile in Ethiopia, as pressures mounted on him to depart the country for fear of sparking new cycles of violence.
The aides said that the former president will leave Yemen within two days along with some of his family members where he will reside in a villa in the suburb of Addis Ababa. Other family members have already left to the United Arab Emirates.
A diplomat in Sanaa confirmed that arrangements had been made for Saleh's departure for Ethiopia. Aides said that visas have been issued and Saleh's belongings already shipped to Ethiopia. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Witnesses who went inside the presidential palace Monday said that a whole hall that used to display precious souvenirs, antiques, golden watches, guns, hunting rifles and other paraphernalia collected under Saleh's regime, was bare on Monday.
A senior army officer and a presidency employee told AP that the commander of the Presidential Guards, who is also Saleh's nephew, has ordered his guards to move all the antiques to an undisclosed location. Another employee said that even alcohol which Saleh used to serve to his western visitors have also been carried away.
Officials said that Saleh came under heavy pressures from Western and Arab countries to leave the country, upon repeated requests by the newly elected president and transitional government to prevent Saleh from staying in Yemen.
Newly inaugurated President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was sworn in as president on Saturday following an election aimed at ending more than a year of political turmoil in Yemen. Hadi was the only candidate in the vote. A Gulf-proposed and U.S. backed power-transfer deal gave Saleh immunity from prosecution in exchange for stepping down.
During a meeting in Sanaa with John O. Brennan, President Obama's chief counterterrorism advisor the night before the election, Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa told Brennan, "Saleh's return to the country means another war." That is according to a senior Yemeni official with knowledge of the meeting.
The prime minister was also quoted as telling Brennan, "we have given concessions, and we are not ready to give more," in reference to giving Saleh immunity from prosecution.
Basindwa, according to the Yemeni official, has pleaded for U.S. intervention to force Saleh to leave.
Other Yemeni officials said that members of the U.N. Security Council threatened to freeze Saleh and his family's assets if he did not leave. They didn't name the member states but one said, "after days of maneuvering, he accepted."
The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa declined to comment and the Ethiopian Embassy could not immediately be reached for comment.
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