27 Dec 2011

US mulls Yemeni president's travel request

8:04 am on 27 December 2011

The US government is considering a request for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to travel to the United States for medical treatment.

A senior Obama administration official says Mr Saleh's office contacted the US embassy in Sanaa to say the president plans to leave Yemen soon and wants specialised care in the United States related to injuries he sustained in a June assassination attempt.

He has already received treatment in Saudi Arabia.

The official said the only reason the travel to the US would be approved would be for legitimate medical treatment.

President Saleh said on Saturday that he would leave for the United States and give way to a successor but did not say when he would depart and characterised his intended trip as one of temporary exile.

"I will go to the United States. Not for treatment, because I'm fine, but to get away from attention, cameras, and allow the unity government to prepare properly for elections," he said.

"I'll be there for several days, but I'll return because I won't leave my people and comrades who have been steadfast for 11 months," Saleh said.

The president's statement came hours after his forces killed nine people who had demanded he be tried for the killings of demonstrators over the past year.

Thousands of activists have held regular rallies demanding Mr Saleh and his closest aides be put on trial.