SANA’A, Dec. 26 (Saba)- President Ali Abdullah Saleh has announced his support to the newly-formed national unity government, calling on the opposition not to procrastinate in implementing the GCC-brokered initiative launched to end Yemen's political crisis.
In a news conference, President Saleh also revealed that he is planning to visit the United States to get away from attention and TV cameras, undergo some routine medical tests and allow the government to prepare properly the upcoming presidential election.
President Saleh began his news conference by commenting on the objectives and framework of the Gulf initiative.
"Welcome to all TV channels and journalists! I am delighted to speak on the latest developments taking place in Yemen to satellite TV channels, local journalists, and others coming from brotherly and friendly countries. You have all learned about the trip we undertook to Riyadh to sign the Gulf initiative, under the generous auspices of the custodian of the two holy mosques and with the presence of the GCC secretary general, the GCC foreign ministers, the ambassadors of the UN permanent member states, and UN secretary general envoy Jamal Benomar.
This Gulf initiative and its mechanism of implementation took a lot of time to be completed and triggered a lot of debate. There was indeed debate over the initiative itself, then over its mechanism of implementation. An agreement was eventually reached over such a mechanism which was laid out according to a timeline, with the aim of implementing the Gulf initiative.
We blessed, supported, and approved this initiative to pull the country out of the current crisis, in which some of our fellows in the Joint Meeting Parties [JMP] imitated particular situations taking place in other Arab countries. This happened although democracy, freedom of press, and the respect of human rights - announced upon the advent of the blessed 22 May Unity - exist in our country.
Our regime is not a tyrannical and dictatorial one-man regime or a one-party regime. It is rather a pluralistic regime. There is an opposition facing a ruling party which holds the majority and, naturally, the opposition is asking for diversity and partnership.
Despite this fact, when the General People's Congress [GPC] won the latest elections - the presidential and the legislative ones - we offered our JMP fellows - and particularly the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, then the Yemeni Socialist Party to enter into a power partnership. They have only recently joined such partnership which was previously offered to them, as I said.
When we told them to come forward to us, they said that they chose deliberately to be in the opposition. So we told them that they are free to do whatever they want. Naturally, time passed by and things grew progressively worse since 2006, until the crisis became inextricable, stopped the development process, and halted projects. Later on, security violations were perpetrated, electricity was cut off, roads were blocked, and an oil and gas pipeline was bombed.
This is neither a political action, nor a democratic action. This is part of acts of retaliation and sabotage. You can voice your opinion through print and audio media. We welcome our youths working in the media. They are performing their job every day and nobody has ever showed objection to their work. There are no prisoners of conscience. If there were political prisoners, then those who give orders to block roads and violate the constitution and law would have been held in custody.
But we believe in democracy, freedom of expression, and voicing counter-opinions. Our country is immense and its people are great. It has 25 million inhabitants and a huge demographic boom is taking place. There is unemployment and wealth is unavailable. There were people talking about oil. We have given them the oil and handed them over the government. They will see by themselves how much oil costs and how much it is sold. He who lives in a house of glass should not throw stones. Yet some political forces, used to plundering, swindling, embezzlement, and stealing public funds, accuse others of committing such acts which are alien to our behaviour.
For 33 years, we have been tirelessly striving and taking political steps, with all our brothers and friends, to support the development process. The current achievements were accomplished thanks to loyal men who served the country in various state institutions. I would like to reiterate that they [the opposition] refused to participate in the government and escalated things until the current situation took place. At present, they are choosing partnership, but why is that happening now?
Was is not better for you to be our partners from the outset? Why blood is shed? Why roads are blocked? Why do you abduct citizens from the streets? Why do you occupy the houses of citizens and expel them out of their properties? Is it for the sake of gaining 50 per cent of the government portfolios? We offered you earlier half of the government portfolios. We signed this initiative in Riyadh and came to implement it by issuing a republican decree delegating many powers to the vice president. The delegated powers include the formation of a government and the nomination of the prime minister and the ministers. Such delegation of powers also includes presidential powers. I did so for the sake of achieving detente without taking into account some constitutional aspects, although these are part of my right.
I waived some constitutional rights, by saying that dropping them will not pose a problem. The vice president formed the government and the government took the constitutional oath before the vice president. These are the powers and rights of the president, which are also the ones of the vice president. The vice president formed the government and set up a military committee to remove barricades and roadblocks and pull off Sana’a's streets those who set up camps and trenches. But then, they raised the height of the barricades to two meters, after it was only 50 centimeters or one meter. They understood the opposite of what they were expected to understand. They set up barricades instead of removing them. A military committee was formed, with the aim of removing roadblocks and obstacles, withdrawing militias, security forces, and other military units supporting the security units.
We then said: 'Let the military committee clears the streets, so that we can restore security and safety in the capital Sana’a; the capital of all Yemenis.' But they are holding their ground. They leave the streets to enter into buildings. When they leave buildings, they leave their guns behind. This is some kind of cheating and there is bad faith. They have staged a march running from Taiz to Sana’a with around 2,000 to 2,500 people, including those who joined it from Ibb and Dhamar and some other regions, such as Bayda. They paid YR 100,000 to every marcher. How can they afford to pay YR 100,000 to each citizen?
They brought in armed elements, among others, for causing riot and carrying out assassinations. They want such elements to kill policemen and marchers in order to say: 'O world! Behold what is taking place! We came with open and bare chests and the regime is slaying us on the streets.' We are aware of this conspiracy. Many of the international observers and heads of diplomatic missions accredited to Sana’a are also aware of this act of cheating.
Let us move to the crime of betrayal, treachery, and shame that took place in the presidential palace. I have already talked about it. You may have listened to my speech in Riyadh during the signing ceremony of the Gulf initiative. I said that the Zionists decided to kill Ahmad Yasin, but at the time of carrying out the crime, Yasin was inside the mosque, so they left him in peace for a while. The Zionists did not kill Yasin until he came out of the mosque.
I am citing this fact to particular Muslims who raise the slogan of Islam. Whether they are Muslims or claim to be of Islam, such acts reflect treason and feelings of grudge. It is not a grudge against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Ali Abdullah Saleh will leave the presidency. The presidency is not one of his possessions. He refused it in 2006 and he refuses it at present. I will give up power. I am interested in national security, safety, and stability. I am interested in national security and the safety of the citizens. Power is a heavy burden and not a trophy, as you want it to be.
In a press interview, someone said that the president's wealth amounts 60 billion. If the president's wealth is 60 billion, how much would be the wealth of the country or its monetary reserve? This means that the president targets plundering the treasury. The Basindwa government received a public reserve amounting $ 14,700,000 although the crisis has been raging for 11 months.
The state remained coherent and protected the public funds. They are currently launching campaigns of strikes to paralyse work in state agencies and ministries and antagonize the state cadres.
Such acts are taking place although the agreement, the mechanism of implementation, and the GCC initiative stated that the partnership in the consensus or coalition government will be a political one, reflected in 50 per cent of the government portfolios. These portfolios are therefore political ones, in which no chief executive, general director, or anyone else has any interference. This is a public office that anyone can fill. It does not matter if mistakes are committed by a director general, a head of organization, or a government agency.
If a mistake is committed, the council of ministers approves the rectification to be introduced. The council of ministers can bring about change, but let such change take place without strikes. Staged in the Information Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Oil Ministry, and some governorates, the strikes paralyse activity in the state institutions and are irrelevant.
The March of Life has entered its fifth day since its launch from Taiz. It is the duty of the government led by Mohammad Salim Basindwa and the security committee to follow up, protect, and determine the course that this march will follow. The marchers committed acts of riot as they set off from Taiz and until they reached Sana’a.
They are now heading to Bab al-Yaman, as I am talking to you in this news conference. This is happening although the security committee held its meeting yesterday and determined the course and direction of the march. This is the task of the Basindwa government which should bear its responsibility. This is a national responsibility and not mere talk. The government should monitor the situation on the ground across the governorates and run the country's affairs.
Since the formation of this government, I decided that I will not be involved personally in the new emerging situation, as I delegated some of my powers to the vice president and my remaining powers are the sovereign ones. Nevertheless, o vice president, assume your responsibility and issue orders to the government to carry out whichever action you deem appropriate.
Eleven months elapsed during which the country, women, children, and old people have been badly suffering to obtain food, water, health, and education. May God's blessing be bestowed upon you. I asserted, in past interviews, that I would keep supporting indirectly this government because backing it means backing Yemen's stability and pulling the country out of this impasse. For our part, we are striving to support the government, but they are not showing any efforts.
The political platform that the newly-formed government presented to the parliament is similar to the one of Ali Mujawwar. I found that it does not include anything new, except that the number of pages of the new platform went beyond 10. They just added words to the same content once presented by Mujawwar's government. I am keen to underline this fact.
Having said this, we call on the JMP to avoid deception, procrastination, playing with fire, and adhere to the Gulf initiative and its mechanisms without cheating or bypassing the deal. We also call on the secretary generals of both the UN and the GCC and the permanent member states of these bodies to sponsor and thoroughly follow up on this initiative and the implementation of its mechanisms.
We call on them to find out who is procrastinating and taking lightly the initiative and assume their full responsibility in this regard. If it turns out that the GPC and its partners are behind the stalling, then we will assume our responsibility. But if they are the ones practicing deception, then they should assume responsibility.
Go ahead and pull out from the streets, allow citizens to move freely, go to schools, and hospitals! But no, they want to stay in the streets of course, why is that? It is all about fear, they are used to scaring people and this is why they are so scared now. The evil plans end up affecting those who devised them. They want to stage a march towards the House of Representatives. It is fine! Go out and voice your opinion, but at least get a permit beforehand, set a course for your march according to the law, and speak up your mind afterward! These facts happened although the initiative and its mechanisms are very clear. The initiative is an integrated system. You cannot pick whatever pleases you out of it. It is an integrated system whose parts are interconnected. This is what we talked about upon the signing of the initiative in Riyadh. But now the violation has started.
This is a mere violation. The march coming from Taiz is a violation of the initiative and its mechanisms, an obvious violation. O our brothers in the GCC countries! O UN secretary general and UN permanent state members! Keep monitoring events and show the media and the world who is committing the violations and plotting against this initiative and its mechanisms of implementation. But nothing of that is happening!
When any kind of violation is committed by the police or the local authorities, the media community grows excited, particularly Al-Jazeera TV, to which many TV channels are now allied. We believe that Al-Jazeera TV clearly expresses its hostility towards Yemen. This hostility aims at destroying Yemen, they want to do so just as they spread havoc in other countries. We are openly and clearly saying it through the media: they are destroying Yemen, so go ahead and tell the truth!
We regret that our fellows in Qatar stand behind this blatant hostility towards the great Yemeni people, the source of the Arab identity, the sons of a nation enjoying a wealth of men, culture and history.
You should not destroy Yemen by exploiting weak and materialistic minds because instability in Yemen is tantamount to instability in the region. Remember what happened for 20 years in Somalia! The Somalis are now praying God to grant mercy to the soul of Mohammed Barre. They destroyed Somalia and now they cannot do anything about it!
Neither the UN, nor the European, African countries or anyone was able to contain the situation in Somalia. This is why we are saying: O neighbouring countries! Protect Yemen's unity, security, and stability, which is part and parcel of your own national security and stability. So protect it!
As for us, we will meet them with the same intention they are harbouring towards us; whether ill-intended or well-intended. This is not something new for us. Ever since the dawn of the revolution and throughout 49 years, we have been suffering from one stage to another, experiencing problem after problem.
Therefore, I reiterate my appeal to my brothers and friends to protect Yemen's stability, security, and unity. Any shortcoming in Yemen's security and stability will affect the region. This is what I wanted to talk about to the media. I am also ready to hold a discussion with whoever wants to ask questions without repeating what I have just said."
Following these statements, a brief question-and-answer session is held with the journalists covering the news conference.
Asked whether he will leave Yemen to the United States for medical treatment, President Saleh answered: "I will go to the United States but not for treatment, because I am fine. So first of all, I would like to reassure you that I am fine. I would like to get away from attention and TV cameras and allow the consensus government and the local authorities to prepare properly the upcoming elections. I also want to steer away a bit from the elections, as if I get involved in them they will criticize the president and if I win they will criticize the president as well. I would like to get away from attention, but other than that, I am fine and I will undergo some medical tests. I am definitely fine!"
Answering another question on the expected date of his return to Yemen, President Saleh said: "My visit to the United States, if it happens, will only last a few days. During this visit, I will undergo some routine tests and maybe some operations, if need be. Again, I would like to stress that I will not abandon my people and my comrades. I will not abandon the men and women who have been steadfast for 11 months. I will not abandon them and will not abandon either those who resisted to the revolution's enemies for 49 years. I will not leave them behind to fend for themselves."
President Saleh then played down the military capabilities of general Ali Muhsin who "leads only 300 soldiers" and relies on "the militias of Al-Iman University and Al-Nahdah Schools".
Highlighting further his views on the future of Yemen, President Saleh said: "Yemen is heading towards reconciliation and will turn its back to the past. All the past will be ignored and Yemen will be heading towards security, stability, and unity. This is our ambition and wish, provided that all sides cooperate with us."
Commenting on the recent security incidents in Dammaj between Huthist elements and a Salafi group, President Saleh said that "two government delegates are holding contacts to mend the rift between the two sides," adding: "We have exerted efforts in this regard by reaching out to all sides in order to resolve the problem. Local authorities and tribal chieftains are also making efforts. "
Finally, asked whether he will pursue his political career as a GPC chairman once the Gulf initiative is implemented and the elections held, President Saleh said: "We already have a candidate, the vice president. He is a GPC candidate working for reconciliation. All brothers and friends consensually approved his candidacy to pull out Yemen from the crisis. We will support him consistently to weather the national crisis and get out of the impasse. As far as I am concerned, I will withdraw from politics as a head of state, but will pursue my political career within the GPC."