Bloomberg News

Saleh Calls for Yemen Truce as Violence Marks His Return

September 23, 2011

(Updates with violence in third paragraph.)

Sept. 23 (Bloomberg) -- President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for a truce as he returned to Yemen today after more than three months abroad, amid fighting between government troops and opposition forces demanding his ouster.

Saleh believes a truce and a cease-fire are needed so that a solution to the crisis can be reached through dialogue, Tarik al-Shami, spokesman for the ruling General People’s Congress, said today in a telephone interview. The president will address the nation on Sept. 25, al-Shami said.

Six people were killed today in the shelling of al-Hasaba, a neighborhood north of the capital and home to Sheikh Sadiq al- Ahmar, chief of Yemen’s most influential tribal confederation, the Hashid, according to the al-Sahwa opposition website. Gunfire erupted in the area hours after Saleh returned, Sameer Mahdi, a witness, said by phone.

Unrest escalated this week after the Organization Committee of the Popular Youth Revolution urged Yemenis to intensify protests demanding an end to Saleh’s three-decade rule. At least a dozen people were killed yesterday during demonstrations in Sana’a, bringing this week’s death toll to almost 100.

Demonstrations began in the Arab world’s poorest country in February, inspired by revolts that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, and deepened with military and tribal leaders, such as al-Ahmar, joining the opposition. Efforts by Gulf Arab countries to broker a power-transfer agreement have failed.

‘Transfer of Power’

“Tell the returning mass killer, we will prosecute him,” crowds chanted in al-Siteen Street in Sana’a today. In the capital’s al-Sabeen Square, another group gathered in a show of support for the president.

The U.S. urges Saleh to “initiate a full transfer of power” and arrange for elections this year, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

“The Yemeni people have suffered enough and deserve a path toward a better future,” he told reporters at a briefing. The U.S. urges all parties to refrain from violence, Carney said.

The protesters in Sana’a today were participating in the funeral of 40 people who died this week. Afterward, the bodies of 21 soldiers loyal to Saleh who were killed in recent violence in the capital were buried, state television said.

‘Legitimate President’

Saleh has “returned because he’s the legitimate president,” said Abdu al-Janadi, deputy information minister, in an interview on Al Jazeera television today. “It will put an end to a lot of dispute that has been going on.”

Saleh, a U.S. ally against al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based militants, left for neighboring Saudi Arabia in June to receive treatment for injuries sustained in an attack on his compound. The president will chair a meeting of the General People’s Congress today, Al Arabiya television said.

“His return does not mean anything to us and we are happy because it will take him to jail,” said Nadeem al-Madani, a protester in Sana’a.

In the southern city of Taiz today, Saleh supporters celebrated his return with gunfire, and government forces fired shells at demonstrators, said Ahmed al-Wafi, a protest organizer. He said at least two people were injured.

--With assistance from Tamara Walid in Dubai, Nayla Razzouk in Amman and Roger Runningen in Washington. Editors: Heather Langan, Ben Holland, Karl Maier

To contact the reporter on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at

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