Sana, Yemen – Ignoring calls by his opponents to stop announcing decisions that affect the country, President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a general amnesty on Sunday for people who had committed “follies” during the uprising and political crisis that began in Yemen 10 months ago.
But Mr. Saleh, who handed over power to his vice president last week, made an exception for those responsible for the bombing that badly wounded him at his presidential palace in June, saying those “groups or parties or individuals” should be brought to justice.
Mr. Saleh, who announced the amnesty during a meeting of his governing party, did not elaborate on the offer; it was unclear whether he meant to pardon his own forces accused of killing protesters, or fighters commanded by his rivals during months of bloody infighting. Yemeni lawmakers are already supposed to grant Mr. Saleh and other government officials immunity from prosecution, a condition of the power-sharing deal that has caused anger among protesters.
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The amnesty offer seemed likely to further annoy Mr. Saleh’s political opponents, who have complained that after yielding power, he has refused to step out of the spotlight, leading to confusion about his role.
Perhaps aware of the criticism, Mr. Saleh on Sunday praised his successor, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, who has taken on a more visible role in recent days and who sat to Mr. Saleh’s right during the meeting. Mr. Hadi offered his own defense of the power-sharing agreement, saying Yemen had been facing “civil war.”
And in a hopeful sign of progress toward selecting a new government, Mr. Hadi appointed a veteran politician from southern Yemen, Mohammed Basendwa, as prime minister and asked him to form a unity government. The new cabinet will be evenly represented by members of the opposition and the ruling party.
A presidential election is scheduled for Feb. 21, but for the moment, Mr. Hadi is supposed to be the only candidate, the result of the deal between the ruling party and the opposition.
Mr. Basendwa, who held posts in Mr. Saleh’s government as foreign minister and information minister, sided with protesters after the Yemeni uprising.
The political progress has not yet quieted Yemen’s armed conflicts. On Sunday, renewed fighting was reported in northern Saada Province, where Houthi rebels have fought an intermittent war against the government for years. Two days of fighting in the province, between Sunni Islamist fighters and Shiite rebels, left 25 people dead, Reuters reported. The Yemeni government has often used Islamist fighters as proxies against the rebels.
A spokesman for the Islamist fighters told Reuters that six foreigners, including one American, were among the dead when shells fired by the rebels hit the grounds of a religious school.
In a report released Friday, Human Rights Watch said Yemeni troops had killed up to 35 civilians in the city of Taiz since Oct. 21, when the United Nations Security Council called on Mr. Saleh to end human rights violations in Yemen. Most of the civilians were killed in artillery shelling that struck a hospital, homes and a public square, the group said.
The rights group called on Security Council members, who are expected to meet Monday to discuss Yemen, to ban travel by and freeze the assets of Mr. Saleh and other senior officials responsible for attacks on civilians.