06/06/2011, 00.00
YEMEN
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Yemenis celebrate Saleh’s departure, but doubt linger over his possible return

People have been celebrating for two days after the president flew to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment for wounds sustained in an explosion inside the mosque at the presidential palace. The opposition accepts the transfer of power to Saleh’s vice president, but the future remains uncertain. In fact, the president’s clan is still in the country and the local branch of al-Qaeda might see its power boosted by the current crisis.
Sanaa (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A majority of Yemenis have been celebrating the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh for the past two days. Although the Yemeni leader is in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, few expect him to come back. If he left for good, he would be the third Middle East despot to fall in the wake of the Arab spring after those of Tunisia and Egypt. However, the situation in the country remains unclear and presidential sources continue to insist that Saleh would be back in a few days.

Despite criticism from the country’s tribal groups, President Saleh has steadfastly refused to end his 33-year reign. In so doing, he has brought Yemen to the brink of civil war.

Three days ago, a blast at the presidential palace left the president wounded. He was immediately flown to Saudi Arabia where he received medical treatment. According to Saudi sources, Saleh underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from his chest and neck.

As soon as news of his departure became public, thousands of Yemenis took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship.

Opposition groups have already announced that they have accepted the transfer of power to Saleh’s vice-president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. However, Saleh’s sons and clan remain in Yemen, and they still control the presidential guard and some army special forces, strong enough to defend themselves but not enough to impose their will on the nation.

In the past few months, Saleh floated the idea of resigning, prodded also by the Gulf States, but he always backed away.

Some analysts believe that the president’s stay in Saudi Arabia is a first step on giving up power.

In the meantime, fears are growing over the future of the country, not only because of the possibility of civil war but also because instability could boost the power of the local wing of al-Qaeda.

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