In a sign Yemen’s ruling party has no intention of giving up power in the near future, the prime minister convened the Cabinet for the first time since the June 3rd assassination attempt that nearly claimed the lives of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his inner circle.
Ali Mohammad Mujawar, who returned to Yemen last week after months recovering in Saudi Arabia after the attack, presided over the Cabinet meeting in what was clearly intended as a symbolic show of defiance by the Saleh government.
Mujawar is a key Saleh ally, and his return to activity underlines the president’s determination to retain power despite months of huge, sometimes violent demonstrations demanding his resignation – and the June 3 bombing of his compound that forced him to leave for Saudi Arabia for treatment.
Saleh is still in Saudi Arabia, rebuffing international pressure to step down, and has promised to return to a nation whose political infighting has opened the door for a significant upsurge in Al-Qaeda activity in southern Yemen.
Despite promises to broker a transition of power ‘soon,’ Saleh has repeatedly rejected a proposal by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to transfer his powers to his vice president.
The most recent rejection of the GCC initiative came on Tuesday by members of Yemen’s parliament, controlled by Saleh’s party.
Saleh’s refusal to approve the deal prompted Qatar to recall its ambassador, as thousands of anti-Saleh protesters continue to take to the streets demanding his resignation.
In recent weeks, Saleh’s troops supported by US airstrikes have stepped up their attacks on terrorists in the south of the country, where Western nations view the Al-Qaeda forces as one of the group’s most violent and dangerous branches.
Western diplomats, who have tacitly backed Saleh’s stepping down, have nonetheless expressed concern a post-Saleh government may not cooperate as readily with counter-terrorism efforts.
Around 180 soldiers and over 300 terrorists were killed in fighting between May and August, according to the Interior Ministry.
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