* Saleh still in Yemen in fragile balance of power after
* Many blame Saleh for deteriorating security situation
* U.S., Yemen government have put priority on fighting al
By Andrew Hammond
SANAA, Sept 22 Ousted Yemeni president Ali
Abdullah Saleh is interfering in the Arabian Peninsula state's
transition process but Western countries are still reluctant to
cut him off completely, a Yemeni government minister said on
Yemen's Gulf neighbours led by Saudi Arabia sponsored a
U.S.-backed deal that allowed Saleh to leave office in February
after a year of fighting to suppress an uprising that left over
2,000 people dead.
The deal gave Saleh and his relatives immunity from
prosecution, but recent statements and violence linked to
military and security units under the control of family members
have raised concerns over the fate of the transition process.
Saleh's successor Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi earlier this month
replaced security officials in an apparent move to reduce the
influence of the veteran former president.
"He has not stopped political activity, and his
interventions and messages are not good," Human Rights Minister
Hooria Mashhour told Reuters in an interview.
"He should have been presented to justice (but instead) he
is spoiling the political process. He wants to hinder us from
rebuilding our country."
Saleh and his supporters say they are abiding by the
transition agreement and other groups are violating it.
The United States and Saudi Arabia long saw Saleh as an ally
who could contain Islamist militants operating in Yemen. His
ruling party has half the seats in the transition cabinet.
Hadi has been under Western pressure to continue security
cooperation with Washington, including allowing U.S. air strikes
against suspected militants that have killed civilians.
Restoring stability to Yemen has become an international
priority due to fears that al Qaeda and other Islamist militants
could become entrenched in a country which neighbours oil
producer Saudi Arabia and lies on major shipping lanes.
INTERNATIONAL SHIFT ON SALEH?
Mashhour said there were signs Western countries had begun
to question their position on Saleh and put more pressure on
political groups seen as hindering the transition.
Disgruntled forces loyal to relatives of Saleh stormed
interior and defence ministry buildings in the last two months.
The defence minister survived an apparent assassination attempt
this month, which no one has claimed.
The U.S. embassy was stormed this month by protesters angry
over an anti-Islam film made in California which raised
questions about the behaviour of security units under the
control of Saleh relatives.
One of Saleh's sons used Facebook last week to reject
accusations that embassy guards had acted suspiciously, saying
the Interior Ministry should have sent in riot police.
"Up to now the U.N. Security Council and international
community are trying to be political and diplomatic," Mashhour
said, pointing to a Security Council resolution in June that
called on all sides to reject violence for political goals.
She said a transitional law due to be approved by government
soon would encourage families of victims of Saleh's rule since
1978 to prosecute him or others either inside or outside Yemen.
"There were serious violations throughout the president's
rule. It was a police-intelligence regime," she said, adding
there were hundreds of forced disappearances. "It's a problem
still going on now. Revolutionary youth have a list of 129
people who disappeared. Their families are crying and saying if
they were tortured (to death), then give us their bodies."
The U.S. ambassador Gerald Feierstein told Yemeni
journalists this week that Saleh's immunity only applied to his
actions before February, when he handed over power.
(Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Rosalind Russell)