US Embassy in Yemen Closes Consulate, Envoys Rescued by Helicopters

Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa May 23, 2011. France on Monday accused Saleh of being irresponsible by refusing to sign a power transition agreement that would see him step down. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

US embassy in Yemen shuts consulate due to unrest (Reuters):

The U.S. embassy in Yemen shut its consular section to the public for at least two days due to insecurity, as forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah fought a gunbattle with opponents on Monday.

“Due to the fluid security situation in the city, the Consular Section is closed to the public for Tuesday and Wednesday, May 24 and May 25, 2011, and will be providing emergency American citizen services only,” the embassy said in a statement.

Envoys rescued from embassy in Yemen (McClatchy):

Yemen’s political crisis took a dramatic turn Sunday when an armed mob loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh surrounded an embassy, trapping the American and other ambassadors inside for hours until they apparently were flown out in a Yemeni military helicopter.

The tense episode — a deep affront to the U.S. and Yemen’s Gulf Arab allies — means the end of a U.S.-backed plan for peaceful transition from Saleh’s 32 years in power and raises grave concerns for what comes next in the bloody uprising that’s raged for more than three months.

On Sunday, Saleh again balked at signing the agreement drawn up by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as armed mobs took to the streets of the capital, Sanaa, and surrounded an embassy where at least five U.S., European and Arab envoys were meeting about the crisis, according to witnesses and news reports.

Although ruling-party officials described the crowds outside the embassies as peaceful demonstrators, Saleh’s government is widely seen as responsible for allowing the standoff.

Can US keep aid flowing to Yemen’s Saleh after embassy siege? (Christian Science Monitor):

An armed mob of government loyalists threatening the lives of a major chunk of the foreign diplomatic corps, including the US ambassador. A daring helicopter rescue. Chaos and tribal gunmen in the rest of the capital.

Just another Sunday in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, where an exquisitely timed show by gunmen loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh staved off the signing of a transition plan backed by the US and Gulf states, and increased the chances that Yemen’s uprising will deteriorate into all-out war.

President Saleh’s 32 years in power have been well-served by his penchant for presenting himself as Yemen’s “essential” man, the only one who can hold back the tide of chaos and disorder. He’s secured hundreds of millions of dollars from the US with this tactic. It appears he decided yesterday to remind the world of the risks if he’s forced to withdraw from power.

Not only did a mob besiege the embassy of the United Arab Emirates, where the US, British, Saudi, Kuwaiti, Omani, and European Union ambassadors had gathered to witness Saleh’s signing of the agreement, a pro-Saleh mob briefly attacked the motorcade of Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s chief negotiator for the deal. Other embassies were surrounded by furious crowds, even China’s.

The plan Saleh refused to sign would have seen him step down in a month – while also promising him immunity from prosecution. It was the third time he refused to sign at the last minute. His official reason on this occasion was a protocol complaint: opposition leaders refused to attend a ceremony at the presidential palace.

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