Yemeni Opposition General Warns of Crisis

Posted July 5th, 2011 at 6:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Yemen's top opposition general has called for foreign intervention to help avert a regional crisis as government warplanes bomb southern cities held by Islamist militants.

General Ali Mohsen, who defected from President Ali Abdullah Saleh and joined protesters in March, called Tuesday for the United States, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council to pressure Mr. Saleh to step down.

The general said he supports a Council plan under which Mr. Saleh would cede power to a transitional government after 30 days. He told CNN Tuesday that the Yemeni people want full implementation of the agreement that would push Mr. Saleh from power and hold elections for a new government.

Washington and Riyadh have failed to pressure Mr. Saleh into signing the Gulf-sponsored initiative, which he has backed out of three times at the last minute.

In other news, Yemen's military stepped up air strikes in southern Abyan province Tuesday, killing four gunmen in the Islamist-held city of Jaar.

A military officer told Yemen's state news agency that 40 suspected al-Qaida militants have been killed in the last two days in clashes with government forces in Abyan. SABA news said two soldiers also were killed in the continuing unrest near Zinjibar, the provincial capital.

Speculation about Mr. Saleh's health and the likelihood of his return to Yemen has been rampant since his departure last month to Saudi Arabia. He is recovering from wounds suffered during a June 3 bomb blast at his palace mosque.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Tuesday the Yemeni leader is in “generally good health.”

On Monday, tens of thousands of Yemenis rallied in the capital, Sana'a, to protest the government's handling of the Islamist insurgency in Abyan. The protesters accused authorities of not doing enough to combat militants who have controlled parts of the province since late May.

Opposition activists have staged protests on an almost-daily basis over the past five months. They have been demanding an end to Mr. Saleh's 33-year autocratic rule.