Yemeni VP: Saleh's return date is 'a decision up to the doctors'
June 29, 2011
The Yemeni government has lost control over five provinces, and security in the country is deteriorating, the nation's acting president told CNN in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
In his first interview with a Western TV network, Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi detailed how U.S. drones are using voice recognition to target al Qaeda leaders and help the government win back control.
Hadi has been Yemen's acting president since June 3, when President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded in an attack on the mosque at the presidential palace.
During Wednesday's hour-long meeting, Hadi said Saleh's wounds from what he described as an assassination attempt were so severe that he has no idea when the president will return from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.
Hadi said he saw Saleh immediately after the bomb attack. The 68-year-old ruler's chest had been pierce by a piece of wood and his face, arms and upper body had been burned, Hadi said. But, he added, the president's health was improving daily.
The interview in the sprawling and heavily defended defense ministry underlined the many challenges facing the vice president, who many in the opposition consider to be a weak placeholder until the president returns from Saudi Arabia.
He acknowledges that his house is surrounded by opposing forces, but he challenges claims that he is unable to use the presidential palace. Hadi says he calls Saleh's son, commander of the powerful Republican Guard at the palace, whenever he wants to give him orders.
He countered opposition accusations that he has no power, saying he has been given full authority to sign a new, U.N.-sponsored peace proposal. He outlined plans that are even less favorable to Saleh's opponents than a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative he has already turned down.
Hadi said the new deal would have Saleh stepping down only when a new president has been elected, a far cry from the Gulf Council proposal that would have Saleh handing power to Hadi after 30 days with new elections within 60 days.
At times, Hadi -- who lived in Britain during the 1960s -- shifted uncomfortably in his seat, even joking at the end of the interview that he felt he'd been through an interrogation. Nevertheless, he gave a robust defense of Saleh, challenging the widely held view that the embattled leader is now part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Saleh still has 3 million supporters, Hadi said.