leader 'may be abroad'
by Brian Whitaker
Originally published in The Guardian, 30 June
MYSTERY surrounded the whereabouts of Ali Salim al-Baidh, president
of Yemen's breakaway southern state, yesterday. His deputy, Abd al-Rahman al-Jifri, denied
radio reports that Mr Baidh had gone abroad for hospital treatment after being wounded.
"I was with Mr Baidh on the telephone all night and I
assure you this is just another lie. He is fine and well," Mr Jifri said.
Nevertheless, Mr Baidh himself has so far failed to deny
the report, broadcast by Tehran radio and Radio Monte Carlo and said to be propaganda
circulated by opponents.
Confusion about his whereabouts began last Sunday when the
defence minister in the breakaway government claimed that he was back in Aden after
spending several weeks in Mukalla, 400 miles away. Other officials in Aden denied it. The
same day, Aden television showed Mr Baidh in Mukalla meeting tribal leaders - though the
meeting is believed to be one reported in the press a week earlier. Egyptian sources said
Mr Baidh recently had a row with his Saudi backers.