Yemen’s Saleh calls for Ramadan talks to end crisis


Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for dialogue with his opponents during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan to help resolve a crisis over demands for his removal which has paralysed Yemen and confounded efforts at mediation.

The opposition has previously rejected invitations to negotiate, saying talks can only take place after Saleh signs a Gulf Arab plan to ease him out of power after 33 years in office.
“There is no alternative to dialogue which sets out from national and constitutional principles,” said Saleh in a statement issued for Ramadan and carried by the state news agency Saba, Reuters reports.

Saleh has frustrated hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who hoped they had seen the last of him when he flew to Saudi Arabia, where he is still convalescing after undergoing eight operations following an assassination attempt in June.

He has proved a wily political survivor, holding on to power despite six months of protests against his rule and international pressure on him to leave.
“We reiterate on this occasion the need for commitment by all sides to the Gulf initiative,” Saleh said, referring to the plan which he has three times appeared to accept and then backed out of signing at the last minute.
“The political state which Yemen has reached … makes it incumbent upon us to work together to get past it.”

The political impasse has paralysed the impoverished state, which is on the brink of civil war with rebels in the north, separatists in the south and army generals defecting from Saleh.

Yemen’s south has descended into bloodshed in recent months, with Islamist militants suspected of links to al Qaeda seizing areas of the flashpoint province of Abyan, including Zinjibar, its capital.

Western powers and neighbouring oil giant Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda is exploiting the security vacuum in Yemen, from where it has previously launched failed attacks against the United States and Saudi Arabia.