Yemen’s presidential election, set for February, may be delayed by security concerns, the foreign minister said, raising the prospect that a U.S. and U.N.-backed plan to end months of unrest by easing the president from office may collapse. The comments – the first suggestion the vote might be held up – came after Islamist fighters seized an entire city, underscoring U.S. and Saudi fears that chaos born of political crisis may empower al Qaeda in Yemen, which sits alongside key oil and cargo shipping lanes in the Red Sea. The vote is central to the plan crafted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a bloc of Yemen’s wealthy neighbors, to ease President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power after nearly a year of protests against his 33-year rule.
“Unfortunately, there are a couple of events relating to security, and if they are not solved … it will be difficult to run the elections on February 21,” Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi, a member of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party, said in an interview shown on Al Arabiya TV on Tuesday. The opposition coalition that shares power with the GPC in a government tasked with leading Yemen to a vote and ending fighting between Saleh’s forces and those of a rebel general and tribal magnates swiftly rejected any delay.
“The statement makes clear the practices of President Saleh’s regime, which aim to create chaos,” said Ghalib al-Odainy, a spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP). He echoed charges that Saleh – long funded by Washington as part of its counterterrorism strategy, which includes assassinations of alleged Islamist militants – was ceding territory to Islamists, in order to demonstrate that the end of his rule means anarchy in which al Qaeda will flourish.
Full Article: Yemen unrest may force election delay: minister | Reuters.