President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure from Yemen probably marks the end of his 33 years in power, but questions are being raised about Washington's decision to take in the strongman.
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh gave a farewell speech and is now headed for the United States where he will receive medical treatment for injuries received in a June 2011 bombing amid a year-long uprising against his regime.
“I ask for pardon from all Yemeni men and women for any shortcoming that occurred during my 33-year rule and I ask forgiveness and offer my apologies to all Yemeni men and women,” said Mr. Saleh in the televised speech. “Now we must concentrate on our martyrs and injured.”
His departure appears to mark the end of his long presidency, fulfilling part of a Western-backed plan for transition in the Arab world's poorest country.
With many relatives and allies still remaining in high-ranking positions, some expect Saleh to wield significant influence from behind the scenes. But with an extremely volatile situation, where protesters have called for the ouster of Saleh's entire regime (not just the head of it), it's not certain the country will long be in their hands.
In that light, Washington's decision to allow him to receive medical care in the US could damage American relations with a future Yemeni government by creating the impression it is sympathetic to Saleh, who has many enemies from his long legacy of divide-and-conquer rule.
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