Yemen president en route to US, foes remain wary


President Ali Abdullah Saleh was en route to the United States for medical treatment, Yemen’s state news agency said on Monday, after delivering a dramatic farewell speech that left his opponents wary.
The announcement came a day after Saleh in a televised address apparently marking the end of his rule appealed for forgiveness from the Yemeni people for “any shortcomings” during his 33 years in power.
“The president … is on his way to the United States to continue what is left of his medical treatment” for wounds sustained in a June bomb attack on his compound, SABA news agency said on its website. The US State Department said on Sunday that Washington approved a visit by Saleh for medical treatment but stressed it was on the understanding that he would stay only for a “limited time.”
Saleh left late on Sunday for Oman with his five youngest children and his wife, according to a source close to the now “honorary president” of Yemen for the next month. In his speech, Saleh said he would return to Yemen but not as president, signalling the veteran leader aims to implement a Gulf-brokered transition plan which calls for his ouster.
“I will go to the United States for treatment and will then return as head of the GPC,” he said referring to his General People’s Congress party. After the election, “our brother Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi (the vice president) will move into the presidential residence and Ali Abdullah Saleh will pack up his bag, bid farewell, and go home,” he said implying that his role as president has come to an end.
However, the thousands of protesters who have been camped out at Sanaa’s Change Square, the epicentre of a pro-democracy movement calling for Saleh’s ouster over the past 12 months, cautioned it was too early to celebrate. “We are still concerned that this latest move might be one of Saleh’s games … We will stay in the square until election day on February 21,” said Walid Ammar, a youth leader, remaining sceptical. “That is the day that Yemen’s future will be decided,” he said.