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Saudi top official to Al Arabiya: Saleh’s health improving and might give speech soon

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The explosion that targeted the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was a result of an explosive device that was placed under the platform of the mosque at the presidential palace in Sana’a, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday.

Citing a Saudi top official, Al Arabiya said that health of the Yemeni president was very well and that he might give a speech soon. The official revealed that a Saudi army ambulance plane took off to Sana’a directly after the explosion.

“The Saudi medical team on board informed the senior officials in the kingdom that there would be a big risk on the life of President Saleh if he stayed in Sana’a. They also said that there were no suitable medical equipment to deal with the president’s conditions,” the Saudi official told Al Arabiya.

He added that President Saleh was not willing to leave Sana’a, but he soon agreed and followed the recommendations of the Saudi medical team. “He was transferred to the kingdom in a very critical condition and he had burns on the face,” he said, according to Al Arabiya.

The UAE foreign minister on Tuesday said that the oil-rich Gulf states will press their efforts to broker an end to a political crisis in impoverished Yemen.

“The unstable situation in Yemen is top of our agenda,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan told a foreign ministers’ meeting of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah.

“We have made huge efforts to reconcile the opposing points of view and our efforts are certainly going to continue without let-up,” Sheikh Abdullah said, according to AFP.

The conflict has so far seen hundreds of people killed in five months of protests.

The Gulf ministers had come under huge pressure from opponents of Mr. Saleh to back an interim council to oversee a transition from his 33-year rule.

The long months of protests against Mr. Saleh’s rule degenerated into street fighting in the capital between loyalist troops and dissident tribesmen.

Yemeni opposition activists had called on the Gulf ministers to “stand with the will of the people in forming a transitional council that would achieve the aims of the revolution.”

The “Youth Revolution” activists, who have been organizing nationwide protests against the 69-year-old president’s rule since January, have called on Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to form the proposed interim council immediately.

Mr. Saleh’s “corrupt regime... has used your initiative as a cover for its crimes against us,” the activists said in a statement, referring to a Gulf-brokered transition plan that the veteran ruler has stalled for months.

Despite strong Western pressure, Mr. Saleh has repeatedly refused to sign up to the proposals under which he would hand power to the vice president within 30 days in exchange for a promise of immunity from prosecution.

“Yemen without this regime will be safer and more stable and committed to effective cooperation with its brothers and friends and to all regional and international agreements and accords it was part of,” the activists’ declared.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the Yemeni capital on Tuesday against Mr. Saleh’s return.

“He will not return, the traitor to his people will not return,” they shouted.

Similar rallies were held in other cities across Yemen, according to AFP.

Yemen’s General Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry warned of a “total collapse” of the nation’s economy if the turmoil continued.

It called on the international community to “use all forms of pressure... to facilitate the transfer of power in Yemen in order to fill the political, security and economic vacuum the country is currently suffering from.”

In Washington meanwhile, a top US State Department official said the US was still cooperating with Yemen, a country of 24 million people, in the fight against Al Qaeda despite the crisis.

“We think that counterterrorism is not about one man, it's about national interest,” Daniel Benjamin, coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department said.

(Abeer Tayel, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: abeer.tayel@mbc.net)