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Yemeni president leaves Saudi hospital
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has left a hospital in Saudi Arabia more than two months after being severely wounded in an attack on his palace compound in Sanaa, the capital, Yemen‘s state news agency said Sunday.
Mr. Saleh, who was badly burned in the June 3 blast, was discharged from the hospital in the Saudi capital of Riyadh and moved to a government residence in the city to recuperate further, the SABA news agency said. It was not immediately clear when — or if — Mr. Saleh would return to Yemen, which has been rocked by more than six months of mass protests calling for his ouster.
A Yemeni government official said the ailing president will remain in Riyadh for the time being because he is “still under medical supervision.”
“We don’t know yet when he will return to the country, but soon, God willing,” the official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to brief the press.
The anti-government protest show no signs of abating, and the economy lies in tatters. Islamist militants — some believed to have links to al Qaeda — also have seized upon the growing chaos to take over entire towns in southern Yemen.
The country’s politics, meanwhile, have been in a state of near paralysis. Mr. Saleh’s vice president, Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi, is nominally in charge in his absence. But the real power on the ground appears to be Mr. Saleh’s son, who controls some of the country’s best-trained military forces, and the powerful Hashid tribal confederation, which opposes the regime.
Government troops and Hashid fighters clashed last week in Sanaa and remain locked in a tense standoff. In late May, the two fought pitched street battles in the capital that threatened to escalate into a full-scale war.
Mr. Saleh’s continued stay in Riyadh, despite leaving the hospital, is a sign of the intense pressure he is under from his Saudi hosts as well as the Americans to relinquish power.
Riyadh, long one of Mr. Saleh’s top allies, is now among those pressing him to give up power. Anxious about the unrest on its southern doorstep, Saudi Arabia was among a group of six nations in the Gulf seeking to persuade Mr. Saleh to step down in return for immunity from prosecution. The United States also backed the deal.
Mr. Saleh three times agreed to the plan, only to back out at the last minute. The attack on his palace came days after he pulled out of the deal for the third time.
Yemen‘s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, who visited Mr. Saleh on Saturday, warned of the “explosive status quo” and said that a political, not a military solution, is needed to end the crisis in Yemen.
He called for a dialogue between the regime and opposition parties. Previous efforts at dialogue have collapsed.
In his first and only public appearance since the attack, Mr. Saleh said last month that he’d undergone eight operations since the attack. His prolonged absence from the public eye fueled speculation about the severity of his wounds and whether they would prevent him from returning to Yemen.
The stunning June 3 attack killed 11 bodyguards and seriously wounded five senior officials worshipping alongside Mr. Saleh in the presidential palace’s mosque. The government first blamed the blast on anti-government tribal fighters and then said al Qaeda was responsible.
By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
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