UPDATE 1-Yemen opposition: talks over after Saleh govt snub

Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:42pm GMT
 

* Yemen transition deal talks have failed, opposition says

* Saleh deputy refused to speak to groups demanding he go

* 21 Qaeda gunmen, 14 soldiers killed in fighting in south

* Russia to evacuate citizens from turmoil-ridden Yemen

(Adds details of further fighting, humanitarian crisis)

By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA, June 12 (Reuters) - Talks to resolve Yemen's political crisis have failed after the deputy to wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to speak with groups demanding he cede power immediately, opposition figures said.

Saleh, forced to seek medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for wounds suffered in an attack on his palace nine days ago, has has refused to leave office despite nearly six months of street protests and many diplomatic attempts to remove him.

The ensuing political paralysis and long-standing conflicts with Islamist insurgents, separatists and rebel tribesmen, has fanned Western and regional fears of Yemen collapsing into chaos and giving al Qaeda a stronghold alongside oil shipping routes.

A member of the group of opposition parties demanding Saleh transfer power now said international efforts to broker an agreement to that end had collapsed because the acting leader, Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, would not talk to them.

"The American and European efforts for a dialogue between opposition parties and the ruling party has failed. The vice-president has refused to deal with or meet opposition parties," Mohammed al-Mutawakkil said.

"He justifies that by saying he is preoccupied with dealing with the fuel crisis and the ceasefire, as well as the security situation in the provinces."

A ceasefire has held in Sanaa since Saleh left a week ago, after more than 200 people were killed and thousands fled during two weeks of clashes between his loyalists and the forces of tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, who backs the protesters.

The capital, however, is all but paralysed by shortages of fuel and electricity, and violence in a southern province -- whose capital Islamist gunmen seized last month -- has worsened.

POPULATION FLEES CITY AMID FIGHTING

Yemen's army killed 21 al Qaeda members in the southern province of Abyan on Saturday, 18 of them in Zinjibar, the provincial capital that fell. Ten soldiers were killed in fighting there and another city, Lawdar, state media said.

Residents of Zinjibar said fighting continued early on Sunday, leaving at least four soldiers and several gunmen dead.

Yemen's health ministry said it would send 10,000 tonnes of medical supplies to people who have fled Zinjibar, including some 10,000 in the southern port of Aden.

A Yemeni NGO, Seyaj, called for help evacuating some 500 people trapped in the town due to continued fighting.

Opposition parties have said they will form their own transitional assembly in a week if Saleh does not cede power. It is not clear whether those parties have any significant influence over many of the protesters.

Saleh has three times backed out of plans crafted by oil-rich Gulf neighbours to quit after a transitional period.

His opponents have accused him of handing over Zinjibar to Islamists to reinforce his threat that the end of his three-decade rule, as demanded by protesters, would amount to ceding the region to al Qaeda.

Saleh has not been seen in public since the palace attack, which left him with burns and shrapnel wounds. Yemen's ambassador in London said on Saturday that he was recovering and in a "stable condition".

Saudi medical sources and Yemeni officials said Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Megawar and another cabinet member injured in the palace attack had been taken for more surgery, and described their condition as "serious".

Interfax news agency reported two planes had been dispatched to evacuate Russian nationals who want to leave the country. About 1,000 Russians citizens are in Yemen.

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