Saleh faces new transitional council

Yemen president's spokesman dismisses 'shadlow government'.

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SANAA // The Yemeni youth movement yesterday announced a transitional council they say will prepare to run the country should the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh collapse.

The move seeks to create a united leadership for the protesters who have filled public squares across Yemen for five months calling for an end to the president’s rule, which marks its 33rd anniversary today.

While the new body is unlikely to increase the pressure on Mr Saleh to step down, it highlights the gap between the country’s protesters and Yemen’s official opposition parties, who, protesters say, were late in joining the anti-regime rallies.

Many protesters criticise the parties for seeking to negotiate the president’s exit instead of trying to bring down his entire regime.

Abdu Al Janadi, a spokesman for Mr Saleh’s government, said the move “pours gas on the fire”.

He said at a news conference that Mr Saleh is “the legal, democratically elected president, and an alternative will only come though elections, not through an illegal coup”.

“If those [people] want to announce a transitional council, they can do that in the sky or in any district, for millions of people still back up the president,” said Mr Janadi.

Tawakul Karman, one of the leaders of the protest movement, said that members of the 17-member “shadow government” included Ali Naser Mohammed, the former president of the south, and Haidar Al Attass, who was prime minister when north and south Yemen united in 1990. The two live in exile.

It also appointed Gen Abdullah Ali Olaiwah, a former defence minister in Mr Saleh’s government, as commander of the armed forces.

The movement said it would establish a national council to monitor the transitional council, draft a new constitution and hold a national dialogue on the issues facing the country.

It also called on the international community to end its dealing with the remnants of the regime.

Meanwhile, the government yesterday was preparing Sabeen Square, near the president’s palace in Sanaa, for the start of a morning march to mark the anniversary of Mr Saleh’s rule. Security around the capital had been tightened.

Abdu Ganadi, a government spokesman, said at least one million people are expected today to attend marches throughout the country in support of Mr Saleh.

There had been predictions that the president might return from receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for the celebrations but Tarik Al Shami, spokesman of the ruling General People’s Congress, said Mr Saleh will not be in Yemen.

“The president will remain in Saudi Arabia till the doctors decide he can leave the hospital,” said Mr Al Shami.

Mr Saleh, who has recovering from his wounds in Riyadh since a June 5 attack on his palace, appeared on television on July 7 for the first time since the attack, with bandages covering his burns.

Opposition forces have said that Mr Saleh’s return could end the peaceful revolution in Yemen.

Yahya Abu Osba, an official with the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) said he expects Yemenis will take control of their destiny as they are tired of waiting for the international community to support the revolution.

“A transitional council is a last option for the pro-democracy youth, but it will come with a hefty price,” he said, raising the possibility of military response.

Mohammed Khobari, a political analyst for Ahale newspaper, also said the youth are becoming impatient.

“There are more than 40 million arms pieces in Yemen; the people insisted on peaceful change. After six months of peaceful protests we fear that youth will be forced to raise arms,” he said.

“Pro-democracy youth are running out of options and Yemen is quickly nearing a violent outbreak.”

A senior presidential aide said he fears for his life if the revolution youth assume control.

“They are blaming every death on the government. We are threatened every day by the protesters and that is why the situation is dangerous and will be catastrophic if it gets out of hand,” said the aide, who did not want to be identified.

Violence already escalated in various parts of Yemen including Abyan, Arhab, Nihm, and Taiz.

At least four people were killed in Taiz on Friday in clashes between the Republican Guards and anti-government armed tribes with the Shara’ab tribe. The Guards shelled Al Rawdha district and targeted the residence of military leaders who defected from the government military. One of the rockets targeted the house of Sadeq Sarhan, an air force commander within the first armoured division, which announced its peaceful support to the popular revolution months ago.

Taiz is divided between areas that are controlled by the government and those controlled by the tribes.

Arhab and Nihm districts, both on the outskirts of the Sanaa, have also seen continuing violent clashes. Tribal leaders in Arhab said that more than 20 people were killed over the past month in the district, while at least 12 were killed in Nihm during the month of July.
* With additional reporting by The Associated Press