U.S. denies telling Yemen ex-president to leave or face sanctions

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 06, 2014 6:10 AM

SANAA (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday denied delivering any threats to Ali Abdullah Saleh over what Washington suspects is his role in destabilizing Yemen.

An official source at Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) party said on Wednesday that the U.S. ambassador to Yemen had delivered a message through a mediator for Saleh to leave the country by 5 o'clock on Friday or face international sanctions.

"The GPC statements about threats to Saleh from the U.S. are untrue," the State Department said in a statement emailed to Reuters. "There have been no meetings between the ambassador and GPC officials at which any such statements have been made."

The GPC official said Washington had delivered the ultimatum ahead of sanctions that the U.N Security Council is expected to impose on Saleh in line with requests by Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the U.S. State Department.

Saleh stepped down in 2012 under a U.S.-backed Gulf power transfer deal that followed months of pro-democracy protests against his 33 years in office.

The accord gave him immunity against legal action over any of his decisions prior to his resignation.

But the United States says the former president has continued to undermine efforts to extract the country from long-running political turmoil.

Last week, Washington requested the U.N. Security Council impose an asset freeze and global travel ban on Saleh and two leaders of the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group which controls Sanaa, on the grounds that they threatened the peace and stability of Yemen and obstructed the political process.

Saleh has denied seeking to destabilize Yemen and his party warned after a meeting on Thursday that any sanctions on the former president or "even waving such a threat would have negative consequences on the political process".

It also called on Yemenis to "go out on Friday in massive marches to express through peaceful, civilized and responsible ways their condemnation and rejection of all forms of guardianship and intervention in internal Yemeni affairs".

The U.S. sanctions request stated that since Saleh stepped down, he "reportedly become one of the primary supporters of the Houthi rebellion" and that he was behind attempts to cause chaos throughout Yemen.

The Houthi rebels took over the capital, Sanaa, in September, with their forces then fanning out into central and western Yemen, bringing fresh tumult to a country that borders Saudi Arabia -- the world's biggest oil exporter.

Several Western diplomats say the United Nations is expected to put the U.S.-requested curbs into force on Friday.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and William Maclean; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Crispian Balmer)