HONOLULU — The Obama administration is reviewing a request from Yemen’s former president to enter the United States to receive medical treatment, a senior administration official said Sunday.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, who relinquished power to his vice president Friday, told reporters over the weekend that he was planning to come to the United States to relieve tension after nine people were killed by government forces during mass protests related to the end of Saleh’s 33-year reign.
Allowing Saleh into the country could be politically risky for Obama given the former president’s repressive 33-year reign and the sustained unrest in Yemen.
Protesters have been calling since February for Saleh’s ouster. In the wake of the latest violence, U.S. counterterrorism chief John Brennan called Yemeni Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi on Sunday to emphasize that Yemeni security forces must display “maximum restraint” in dealing with the demonstrators, said White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest.
The U.S. reiterated its support for the Yemeni people’s rights for freedom and security and a peaceful transition to a presidential election slated for Feb. 21, Earnest added.
Brennan “called upon all sides to refrain from provocative acts that could spur further violence,” Earnest said. “Hadi said that he has initiated an investigation into the deaths and injuries that occurred and that he would do his utmost to prevent further bloodshed.”
Last week, more than 100,000 demonstrators had marched 200 miles in an unprecedented display to demand that Saleh not receive immunity from prosecution for agreeing to hand over power. The nation’s elite Republican Guard, commanded by his son and nephew, opened fire on them.
The Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Saleh’s office contacted the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa asking for permission for the former president to receive medical treatment in the United States for wounds suffered in a June terrorist attack against the presidential palace.
The U.S. is reviewing the request and would not allow Saleh into the country for any other reason, the official added.