'Treason' claim over Clinton visit

Hillary Clinton paid a surprise five-hour visit to Yemen on Tuesday en route from the Emirates – the first vist by a US secretary of state for more than 20 years.

A good deal of the media interest focused on her fall as she boarded the plane to leave but since her departure the visit has been causing ructions in Yemen.

Besides having lunch with President Salih, she met opposition and civil society representatives privately at the US embassy – and the regime is furious.

Aref al-Zuka, a senior figure in the ruling party has denounced the opposition leaders who met Clinton as "traitors and agents of foreign states", and has demanded that they be prosecuted for treason.

The authorities have also concocted a new rule, disguised as an anti-terrorism measure: "it is strictly prohibited [for] any person to enter any embassy or headquarters of the foreign mission" except "by prior coordination with the relevant security agencies".

In a statement after meeting Salih, Clinton stressed: "Above all, the United States is committed to the people of Yemen ... We want this to be a relationship not just between leaders and governments, but between the people of Yemen and the people of the United States of America."

The Yemen Post reports:

Hasan Zaid, the general secretary for the opposition al-Haqq Party said that from the discussions JMP [united opposition] leaders had with Mrs Clinton, he came to understand that Washington wants change and supports it.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Joint Meeting Parties leaders in a closed door meeting which continued more than two hours.

According to Zaid, opposition was given great importance by the visiting American delegation, and this will help the reform strategy in the country.

"Without national agreements on key points, there will be no solution to the country's problems, and Clinton understood that."

"We are confident to say that the JMP will not enter elections until the ruling party agrees to the terms we agreed on previously. It seems to me that pressure was put on the government to change some of its stances, and will most likely return to the dialogue table, and this time with the Americans observing."

"Mrs. Clinton showed strong support for the opposition and clearly mentioned the need for change."

"The US support for political reforms is respected by the opposition, and we feel that this is a positive step the US government. International pressure needs to be put on the Yemeni government and Clintons visit is a step in the right direction."

According to News Yemen, those who met Mrs Clinton included: 
Mohammed Abdul-Malik al-Mutawakkil (Joint Meeting Parties), Abdul Wahab Medial (Islah), Sultan Alatawani (Nasserist), Hassan Zaid (al-Haqq), Mohammed Salem Basendwah (Preparatory Committee for National Dialogue), Ahmed Haidara (Baath Party) and Abu Bakr Baveb (Socialist Party).

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 13 Jan 2011