Power-transfer deal inked for Yemen, sanctions loom over Syria
Xinhua, Nov. 27, 2011
SANNA/DAMASCUS, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) — Yemen regained sorts of stability Saturday after President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a Gulf-brokered deal to transfer power, while the Syrian government was under mounting pressure as the Arab League (AL) proposed economic sanctions.
Saleh arrived in Sanaa Saturday evening after a three-day trip to Saudi Arabia, where he signed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative to transfer power, the official state news agency Saba reported.
The president also got a medical check-up in Riyadh after sustaining injuries from a bomb attack in June on his Sanaa residence, according to a government official.
Saleh’s return was announced hours after Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi issued a decree, declaring Feb. 21, 2012 as the date for the early presidential elections in line with the GCC initiative.
“Based on the UN-backed Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and its implementation mechanism, which both were signed in Riyadh on Nov. 23, we call for early presidential elections to be held on Feb. 21 next year to elect a new president for the country,” a decree issued by Hadi said.
It added that “no party has the right to annul or change the date.”
Under the GCC deal, Saleh handed over power to his deputy Hadi on Wednesday in return for immunity from prosecution, which was rejected by some angry protesters.
Witnesses and residents in Yemen’s southern restive province of Taiz said heavy clashes between the government troops and opposition armed tribesmen flared up immediately after the state media announced Saleh’s return to Sanaa. No casualties have been reported yet.
Government officials said that according to the GCC deal, Saleh will retain the title of honorary president until a new leader is elected.
One official told Xinhua that “Saleh will take part in overseeing the implementation of the power-transfer deal.”
On Saturday, Hadi also instructed the Homeland Security forces to adhere to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2014.
A government official said Hadi will issue another presidential decree regarding the appointment of a new prime minister within 48 hours.
Following Saleh’s return, Saba immediately reported that the United States said after talking with Hadi that it will directly oversee the implementation of the Gulf-brokered deal for the power transfer in Yemen.
“The United States will directly and closely oversee the implementation of the UN-backed Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and its executive mechanism that was agreed upon by the entire international community,” chief counterterrorism adviser to the U.S. president John Brennan told Hadi.
“Brennan conveyed warm congratulations from U.S. President Barack Obama to Hadi on the signing of the GCC deal and the break of the Yemeni political standoff, reaffirming that the United States will work along with its allies in Europe and the world to directly help Yemen to end its political, security and economic crises, as well as in combating terrorism,” Saba said.
In Syria, the unrest was still simmering as the AL proposed economic sanctions against the country Saturday at a meeting of finance ministers in Cairo.
The proposals included freezing the Syrian government’s funds, halting commercial business with the Syrian government except for strategic commodities that affect people’s livelihood, and suspending flights to Syria, according to a statement issued after the meeting.
The proposed sanctions also included the suspension of financial exchanges with the Syrian government.
The package of sanctions will be submitted to a meeting of foreign ministers Sunday for approval.
The recommended sanctions came after Syria failed to sign an AL observe mission agreement within the deadline set by the League.
The Syrian government had pledged to withdraw its troops from cities and allow monitors in, but violence continued with hundreds of civilians, soldiers and army deserters reportedly killed this month.
On the eve of the AL meeting, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem urged the AL to show its rejection of foreign intervention, urging the organization to announce a clear-cut stand to show this.
Syria’s official news agency Sana said the message sent by al-Moallem dealt with some important points that had remained unanswered over the protocol and some decisions issued by the AL ministerial meetings, such as Thursday’s decision to give Syria a deadline to sign the protocol.
It was reported that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his country and some other Arab neighbors of Syria had reservations about the sanctions.