Ali Abdullah Saleh hasn't been seen in public since he was wounded in a bomb blast at his palace in early June but as protests in his country swell to demand the departure of his two sons, Saleh himself is now vowing to return. Ahmed al-Sufi, Saleh's press secretary gave a statement today in advance of the President's promised appearance that seemed partly an effort to excuse him for not appearing sooner: "He will appear within the next 48 hours despite our fear that the burns on his features and on different parts of his body will be an obstacle given that his appearance will not be as the media expects it."
The statement did not outline what future role the President, who made is career in the military and came to power in 1978, sees for himself upon return. Neither did Sufi comment on the proposed plan by the Gulf Cooperation Council whereby Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour would take over from Saleh to form a new government. Regardless, this plan might not be enough to calm protestors whose ranks continue to grow. Reuters quotes one man protesting against Saleh's sons Sunday: "The position of the United States and Saudi Arabia is against our revolution ...we want a transition council to be set up and for the remainders of the regime to leave."
Indeed, according to the Associated Press hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered today in Sanaa, Ibb, Taiz, and other cities demanding that Saleh's sons, who are both military commanders and have been key supporters of the embattled President, also leave the country. If the proposed plan by the Gulf Council isn't backed by the people it may well behoove the council to find a solution that does and is tolerable to all parties, who have different but not necessarily competing interests: while Yeminis demand a complete regime change, Saudi Arabia is most concerned with regional unrest threatening oil concerns and the United States fears a power vacuum that will leave room for Al-Qaeda to emerge as Yemen's most powerful regional powerbroker. In perhaps the best indicator of international worry over the political situation, even the U.N. Security Council was able to overcome smaller disagreements and issue a statement of "grave concern" regarding a security situation which has been steadily worsening since February, when the protests began. Since December when the so-called Arab Spring began, popular revolutions have also ousted governments in Tunisia and Egypt, led to civil uprisings Bahrain and Syria, and an sparked an ongoing civil war in Libya.