Yemen president challenges Obama on Arab unrest
Wed, March 2 2011 01:47 | 906 Views
Sanaa (ANTARA News/Reuters) - Yemen`s President Ali Abdullah Saleh chastised Washington on Tuesday for its criticism of Arab leaders` responses to regional unrest, asking U.S. President Barak Obama if he was "president of the world".
Saleh, a key U.S. ally against al Qaeda in Yemen, chided the White House for its demands that leaders show restraint in tackling unrest as protests rage in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Oman, galvanised by successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
"Every day we hear a statement from Obama saying `Egypt you can`t do this, Tunisia don`t do that`," Saleh said in a speech at Sanaa University -- a rallying point in the capital for protests that have now swept across the Arabian Peninsula state.
"What do you have to do with Egypt? Or with Oman? ... Are you president of the United States, or president of the world?"
The 68-year-old leader, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has met with tribal and regional military leaders to rally support, but with oil and water resources drying up, he is less able to pay off allies to keep the peace.
Saleh offered to form a unity government on Monday. But the opposition swiftly rejected his offer and said it would stand with tens of thousands of protesters demanding he step down.
As thousands of protesters rallied outside the university where he was speaking, Saleh told the students in the audience that they should talk to their classmates in the streets.
"I will satisfy all of their demands, so far as it is within the power and capability of the state to do so," he said.
Protesters are angry at widespread corruption and high unemployment in Yemen, where 40 percent of the population on $2 day or less and a third face chronic hunger.
Saleh said media coverage of the protests was part of a foreign plot to protect Israeli security and stability, calling it a "service to international Zionism".
"There is an operation room working for the media ... in Tel Aviv to shake up the Arab nation," he said. "It is all run by the White House." (*)
Editor: B Kunto Wibisono
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