Gulf states vow to seek end to Yemeni crisis as Saleh clings to power


Yemen's Gulf neighbors pledged on Tuesday to renew efforts to avert civil war on their doorstep over the fate of wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is clinging to power after months of protests against his rule.

Gulf states have tried repeatedly and in vain to broker an exit for Mr. Saleh, forced to seek treatment in Saudi Arabia for injuries suffered in an attack on his palace earlier this month.

The failure of the most recent bid in May triggered two weeks of fighting that reduced parts of the capital to ruins and fanned Western and regional fears of Yemen slipping into chaos and giving Al Qaeda a stronghold alongside oil shipping routes.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a bloc of monarchies neighboring Yemen, has seen Mr. Saleh back out of deals it struck to ease him from office three times. Its members pledged on Tuesday to continue efforts to resolve Yemen's political crisis.

"We have exerted together a major effort to ... restore the situation in Yemen and for sure our efforts will continue in that matter," Saudi Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan said at a GCC meeting in Jeddah.

Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, a leader of Yemen's powerful Hashed tribal confederation, parts of which have turned against Mr. Saleh, said Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the acting leader, must allow a transitional government to take shape.

A bomb killed a military officer loyal to Mr. Saleh in Burayqa near the southern port of Aden, an official said on Tuesday.

The explosion tore through the car of Colonel Muti'a al-Sayani, a close relative of a provincial governor who is among Mr. Saleh's supporters.

Aden is flooded with refugees fleeing fighting between Yemen's military and Islamist militants who have seized the capital of a neighboring province -- one of the multiple conflicts that Yemen's neighbors fear could shatter the Arabian Peninsula country and embolden the country's Al Qaeda wing.

A US- and European-brokered effort to strike a transition agreement between Mr. Saleh's deputy and opposition parties who demand the president surrender all claims to power immediately, collapsed after the deputy refused to discuss Mr. Saleh's fate.

Yemen said on Monday it arrested several people for trying to kill Mr. Saleh, apparently referring to the attack that wounded him. A state newspaper reporting the arrests hinted blame would be placed on a group of opposition parties.

A ceasefire has held in Sana’a since Mr. Saleh left following the June 3 attack on his palace. Up to then, fighting between Saleh's forces and those of General Ali al-Mohsen al-Ahmar -- who defected in March -- as well as tribesmen had killed hundreds of people and forced thousands to flee.

Thousands of anti-Saleh protesters filled the capital's central Siteen Street on Tuesday, demanding again that he step aside and that a transitional government be formed to take over.

Shortages of fuel, electricity and water are acute in the capital, and violence in the southern province of Abyan, whose capital Islamist gunmen seized last month, has worsened.

Mr. Saleh has not been seen in public since the palace attack, which left him with burns and shrapnel wounds.

However, Yemen's official Saba news agency reported late on Tuesday that Mr. Saleh told King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia that his health was "constantly improving" as he receives treatment in a Saudi hospital.

Mr. Saleh thanked the king for the care he was receiving and said his health was "good," Saba said.

(Sara Ghasemilee, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: [email protected] Abeer Tayel, also a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: [email protected])