Adding to fears of a worsening political crisis in Yemen, a top government official hinted at a possible delay in presidential elections set for February that would mark the formal end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule. During an interview broadcast Tuesday on Al Arabiya, Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, said it would be “difficult” to hold the elections on Feb. 21 as planned because security in the country was deteriorating. The elections are a condition of a power-transfer deal that Mr. Saleh signed in November, and Yemeni officials have called them a critical step toward ending the crisis. Opposition figures quickly criticized his comments, and a spokesman for Yemen’s vice president said there would be no delay, according to CNN.
Still, the muddled signals, along with reports of new violence in the country, underscored the difficulties Yemeni officials face as they try to carry out an agreement that is intended to quiet a popular uprising that began almost a year ago and to start a political transition. Instead, a political stasis has taken hold. “We don’t know where we are right now,” said Mohammed Abulahoum, the head of the opposition Justice and Building Party. “We’re out of time.”
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, expressed concern when asked during a visit to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, about any delay in Yemen’s election. More explicitly than any American official so far, she said that President Saleh should not only step down but also leave the country.