January 10, 2012
January 10, 2012
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz held talks with the visiting Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa in Riyadh on Monday as the United States defended a draft amnesty law for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Riyadh talks focused on the latest developments of the Yemeni crisis as well as means of boosting bilateral ties.
Basindawa arrived inSaudi Arabia on Monday at the beginning of a tour to the country’s oil-rich Gulf neighbors to seek urgently needed aid for an economy approaching collapse.
Basindawa, formerly an opposition leader who is now leading a transitional government, heads in search of financial help while political tensions at home remain acute and protests continue against the deal that brought him to power.
The tour aims to raise “immediate support to face Yemen’s budget deficit,” and will see the prime minister visit Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar as well, Basindawa told Al Arabiya a day earlier.
Last month, U.N. agencies said nearly four million Yemenis will be affected by the country’s political and economic crisis in 2012, more than half of whom will suffer from acute food shortages, according to AFP.
Nearly a year of protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime sparked a breakdown in public services and Yemen is also struggling to combat an insurgency by al-Qaeda-linked militants in its restive south.
Basindawa became prime minister following a Gulf-sponsored deal that calls for Saleh to formally resign in exchange for immunity from prosecution for himself and his relatives.
Outrage over the immunity provision has fueled further protests, but the transitional government has said it will not try to adjust the terms of the deal.
U.S. defends amnesty law for Saleh
The United States, meanwhile, defended a draft amnesty law for Saleh, saying a Gulf Arab deal granted him protection from prosecution in order for him to leave power.
It said the deal brokered last year by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which Saleh eventually signed, contained a provision for an amnesty that has to be implemented by Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and the opposition.
“That had to be put into law. So that’s what they’re working on now,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“This is part and parcel of giving these guys confidence that their era is over and it’s time for Yemen to be able to move forward towards a democratic future,” Nuland told reporters, according to AFP.
Yemen’s interim government agreed Sunday to grant Saleh amnesty from prosecution.
The government issued a draft law by which Saleh and his aides “who worked with him in all government, civil and military departments during the years of his rule, are granted amnesty against legal and judicial prosecution,” it said in a statement carried by Saba state news agency.
The national unity cabinet that is led by Saleh’s opposition referred the draft law, “which applies to all acts committed before it is issued,” to the parliament for ratification, Saba said.
Saleh serves now as an honorary president until polls are held in February to elect Hadi as his successor.
A bloody crackdown on anti-Saleh demonstrations that erupted in January 2011 has claimed hundreds of lives.
In London, the rights group Amnesty International on Monday called on Yemen’s parliament to reject the draft amnesty law, saying it is “a smack in the face for justice,” all the more so since protesters have been calling for an end to impunity.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday said anyone who had committed abuses during the mass protests in Yemen must not be allowed to evade justice.
Pillay urged decision-makers inYemen to respect the prohibition in international law against amnesties for gross human rights violations.
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES