(Corrects date when Saleh stepped down in paragraph 5)
SANAA Jan 3 Yemen's ousted president will go
abroad for medical treatment, an aide said on Thursday, and his
opponents say his absence will improve the chances of success in
reconciliation talks seen as crucial for stabilising the
The talks are expected to start in February.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, expected to be absent during the
discussions, remains influential, and his continuing sway over
Yemen is worrying Gulf neighbours and Western nations who fear
the political transition could descend into chaos.
Restoring stability in Yemen has become a priority for the
U.S. and its Gulf allies fearing that Islamist militants will
further entrench themselves in a country neighbouring top oil
exporter Saudi Arabia and lying on major world shipping lanes.
Yemen's Gulf neighbours, led by Saudi Arabia, sponsored a
deal that saw Saleh quitting in February 2012 after a year of
protests against his rule and allowed his deputy, Abd-Rabbu
Mansour Hadi, to take office.
The power transfer deal mandates Hadi to oversee reforms
during a two-year interim period to ensure a transition to
democracy, including amending the constitution and restructuring
the armed forces to break the Saleh's family's grip.
Yemeni sources said pressure has been mounting for Saleh to
leave Yemen to ease lingering political tensions,
particularly after his announcement that he would head his
party, the General People's Congress (GPC), in the national
"Some political parties have told President Hadi that they
will not take part in the national dialogue if Saleh did not
leave Yemen," one government source told Reuters. Saleh was
expected to travel to Saudi Arabia for treatment, he said.
A presidential palace source confirmed that Saleh was set to
leave Yemen for treatment in Saudi Arabia before talks.
Saleh's press secretary said there were plans for him to
travel to Saudi Arabia, the United States or Italy, for medical
treatment and "not as part of a political deal". He said the
date of his trip was yet to be finalised.
Last year, Saleh, 69, went to the United States for
treatment of wounds inflicted in an assassination attempt in
For decades, the United States and Saudi Arabia saw Saleh as
an ally who could contain Islamist militants operating in Yemen.
His ruling party has half the seats in the transition cabinet
and his opponents fear he could be a disruptive influence at the
Last month, Hadi ordered a broad overhaul of the military,
which is divided between Saleh's opponents and supporters. His
decree abolished the elite Republican Guard, led by the former
leader's son, Brigadier-General Ahmed Saleh.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Rania El Gamal in
Dubai; Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Louise Ireland)