Exit of wounded Yemeni leader sets off celebration

An anti-government protester, center, reacts on Sunday as he and others in Sana, Yemen, celebrate President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s departure to Saudi Arabia. “Yemen is reborn,” screamed thousands of demonstra­tors. 

Associated Press

An anti-government protester, center, reacts on Sunday as he and others in Sana, Yemen, celebrate President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s departure to Saudi Arabia. “Yemen is reborn,” screamed thousands of demonstra­tors. 

SANA, Yemen — Yemeni protesters cheered Sunday the surprise exit of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment and swore the man who has ruled their country for almost 33 years was finished.

"Yemen is reborn," screamed thousands of demonstrators who have lived in front of Sana University in the capital for more than four months, weathering tear gas, police batons and AK-47 fire.

But even as they rejoiced, officials close to Saleh vowed he would return in days and his trusted lieutenants, including his son, held on to senior positions.

A government official said Saleh intended to come home once he recovered from his medical treatment for injuries he received Friday when opponents of his government fired a rocket into the presidential mosque.

In response, Mohammed Qahtan, spokesman for a bloc of opposition parties, vowed that his coalition would do everything in its power to keep Saleh from re-entering Yemen.

"If Saleh comes back, there will be thousands of us at the airport to receive him," said protester Marwan Noman, who vowed to remain in the demonstrators' encampment until a new government is in place.

Saudi Arabia orchestrated the embattled president's exit from Yemen, signaling the desert kingdom's determination to stop its southern neighbor from spinning out of control — even if it means a change of leadership.

The Saudis had been trying for weeks to get Saleh to step down.

Yemeni Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, considered a weak political player, has taken over as acting president during Saleh's absence. The 66-year-old career military man has been vice president since the end of the country's civil war in 1994 and has remained loyal to Saleh.

New deaths in Syria

The death toll in a government crackdown in two northern Syrian towns rose to 35 on Sunday, human rights groups said. Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths in the town of Jisr al-Shughour and nearby Khan Sheikhoun included six police officers.

Libyan woman exits

A Libyan woman who claimed she was raped by Moammar Gadhafi's troops has left Libya on her way to the United States, her sister said Sunday. Marwa al-Obeidi said her sister Iman was flown out of the city of Benghazi early Sunday morning. It was not known where she was going in the United States.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Exit of wounded Yemeni leader sets off celebration 06/05/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 5, 2011 10:58pm]

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