NATO allies may be forced to look east as Yemen teeters on civil war
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headed to Abu Dhabi to
discuss with NATO allies the outlook for Libya without Muammar Gaddafi even as
the focus may shift further east to Yemen, which is on the brink of civil war.
With North Atlantic Treaty Organization jets stepping up
daytime strikes on the Libyan capital of Tripoli, the UAE will
host Clinton and other members of the 22- nation Libya Contact Group on June 9.
Gaddafi on Tuesday said “martyrdom is a million times better” than surrender, in
his first broadcast comments in more than three weeks.
President Barack Obama renewed his demand that Gaddafi leave
as a growing chorus of world leaders predicted the demise of the Libyan
dictator, who after a 42-year rule has failed to crush a popular uprising that
Gaddafi “must step down and hand power to the Libyan
people,” Obama said Tuesday at a joint news conference with German Chancellor
Angela Merkel in Washington. “The pressure will only continue to increase until
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this week
Gaddafi is now “part of Libya’s past,” signaling the time has come to start
planning for the aftermath. Gaddafi remains in control of the capital, in the
country’s west, even though rebels are running most of eastern Libya.
In London, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told lawmakers
in the House of Commons that the “Gaddafi regime is isolated and on the
defensive.” Merkel, standing next to Obama, said “Gaddafi needs to step down
and he will step down.”
The situation in Libya may be overshadowed in tomorrow’s
discussions by the chaos unleashed in Yemen after an injured President Ali
Abdullah Saleh this week fled to Saudi Arabia yet vowed to come back. After
four months of demonstrations, protesters celebrated his departure.
Violence in the Arab region’s poorest country threatens to
mirror the situation across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia, which has been mired
in a civil war for two decades and hasn’t had a functioning central government
Vice President Abduraboo Mansur Hadi has assumed Saleh’s
duties “until the president returns,” Abdu Al Janadi, the deputy information
minister, said in a phone interview from Sana’a, the capital. That will be
within days, state news agency Saba said.
Though Saleh has been a strong ally in the fight against al
Qaeda, the US has called on Yemen’s leaders to proceed with an immediate
transition of power and say counterterrorism work would continue with others at
“I can’t speculate on what President Saleh is going to do or
say, but we do want to emphasize we’re calling for a peaceful and orderly
transition, a nonviolent transition that is consistent with Yemen’s own
constitution,” Clinton said on June 6 at a joint news conference with French
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.
The Saudi cabinet, chaired by King Abdullah, called for
Saleh to accept an accord to give up power after 33 years in office, according
to the Saudi Press Agency.
Terrorist attacks on the US have been planned in Yemen. Its
strategic location in the Arabian Gulf, the source of almost 20 percent of US
oil supplies, makes the country’s stability an administration priority.
US administration officials said Saleh was more badly burned
than originally thought, raising doubts about his ability to return. The Yemeni
leader has reportedly received bad burns to his face and to 40 percent of his
body, according to officials not authorized to speak on the record.
Even as the outlook for Yemen is mired in uncertainty, in
Libya, the UN-sanctioned and NATO-enforced air campaign has yielded results.
Airstrikes in the past month have pushed Gaddafi loyalists
out of the western port city of Misrata, which is in rebel hands, and aided
some of their gains in the Berber highlands in the west.
Jalal El Gallal, a spokesman for the rebels’ National
Transitional Council, said fighters “completely liberated” the western mountain
town of Yefren yesterday.
Gaddafi’s regime has also been weakened by mass defections,
the latest top oil official Shokri Ghanem.
Libyan generals, two colonels and a major defected to rebel
forces at the end of May, bringing the total of Libyan army officers who have
left Gaddafi to 120, Libya’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Abdel
Rahman Shalgham, said on May 30.
The Libyan leader may be stepping up efforts to find a
settlement. Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Ati Al-Obeidi arrived in China today
for a three-day visit, after China yesterday confirmed its diplomats had met
with rebel leaders.
Al-Obeidi’s itinerary includes a meeting with his Chinese
counterpart, ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday. Hong
said yesterday that diplomats from the Chinese Embassy in Egypt recently met
officials from the Libyan rebel Interim Transitional National Council in
Defence ministers from the 28-member alliance begin a two-
day meeting today in Brussels and will discuss progress in the UN-mandated
mission in Libya.