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Yemen: Saleh, Washington exchange accusations over sanctions - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh talks during an interview with Reuters in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, Yemen, on May 21, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh talks during an interview with Reuters in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, Yemen, on May 21, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The US State Department denied accusations that its ambassador to Yemen had warned the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to leave the country or face international sanctions on Wednesday.

“This report is untrue and no such message has been sent by the United States to former President Saleh,” the US embassy in Sana’a said in a statement to Yemen’s state-owned SABA news agency. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki also denied the reports, saying that Washington’s envoy in Sana’a, Matthew H Tueller, had not issued any statement to this effect, nor had any meetings with Saleh’s General People’s Congress political party, where the reports had originated.

The General People’s Congress party issued a statement on Wednesday claiming that Tueller had called on Saleh to leave Yemen before 5 pm Friday or face sanctions. “This is a blatant intervention in Yemen’s internal affairs. It is rejected and unacceptable,” a General People’s Congress party statement said.

In a message posted on Facebook, Saleh himself wrote: “The man has not been created or given birth by his mother yet to tell Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave his country.”

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Saleh aide Ahmed Al-Sufi called on the US ambassador to abide by diplomatic norms.

“By issuing a call such as this, the US ambassador has announced the end of his mission,” Sufi said.

The latest controversy comes as the UN Security Council is discusses freezing the assets and imposing a travel ban on figures believed to be behind the Houthi uprising in the country, including two senior Houthi leaders and Saleh himself.

Although Saleh’s government fought the Shi’ite Houthi movement durng his time in office, many Yemenis believe that the former president is providing assistance to the Shi’ite rebels as part of a political maneuver to return to power.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Saleh’s successor, is currently in negotiating with the Houthis over the formation of a new “national unity” government, although talks remain deadlocked. Meanwhile, Houthis continue to advance across parts of the country, placing increased pressure on Sana’a to come to a deal.

A diplomatic source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that the US issued the sanctions request to the UN Security Council, and that Britain had called for sanctions to be imposed on the former president, in line with UN Security Council resolution 2140.

Resolution 2140 establishes a sanctions committee that is permitted to designate sanctions against Yemeni individuals and entities that are “engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen.”

Additional reporting by Mohammed Ali Saleh from Washington and Hamdan Al-Rahbi from Sanaa’a.