Wednesday, 2 March 2011

US warns Yemen against 'scapegoating'

Source: AFP, 02/03/2011

WASHINGTON — The White House Tuesday warned Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stop "scapegoating" the United States and Israel after he lashed out amid mass opposition protests against his rule.

Saleh is a key US anti-terror ally for Washington, largely due to the presence on Yemeni soil of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has plotted several recent foiled attacks against the United States.

But he complained on Tuesday about President Barack Obama's critiques of the wave of protest and revolt sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, accusing Washington of backing an Israeli plot.

White House spokesman Jay Carney however said that Washington wanted the Yemeni leadership to focus on political reforms that would respond to the "legitimate aspirations" of its people.

"We don't think scapegoating will be the kind of response that the people of Yemen or the people in other countries will find adequate," he said.

In an address at Sanaa University, Saleh said "the events from Tunisia to Oman are a storm orchestrated from Tel Aviv and under Washington's supervision."

"What is taking place on Yemen's streets is just a copycat attempt," he said. The protesters are "led from outside" and are in the pay of "Zionists," he charged.

Saleh lashed out at Obama for his repeated calls for restraint by Arab regimes that had long been key allies and his support for the popular protests that ousted veteran leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.

"Every day we hear a statement by Obama... (saying) Egypt don't do this, Tunisia don't do that... What does Obama have to do with Oman, what does he have to do with Egypt? You are the US president," he said.

Events in Yemen have placed Washington on a now familiar tightrope strung between protesters seeking reform and an authoritarian ruler who has acted to further US national security interests under strong American prodding.

Saleh's speech on Tuesday took place as the the opposition hailed its biggest protest yet against his three-decade rule.

The Yemeni leader, in power since 1978, has repeatedly rejected domestic calls for his resignation.

His one concession has been to pledge not to seek re-election in 2013, which the opposition has dismissed as inadequate.

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