Yemen opposition figure asks West to freeze Saleh assets

A leading member of Yemen’s opposition called on Western countries to freeze the assets of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is clinging to power despite months of protest against his 33-year rule.

Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, a key tribal figure who belongs to Yemen’s main opposition party, the Islamist Islah, also lashed out at Saleh’s sons’ “desperate” attempts to keep the family in power as their father recovers in Saudi Arabia from a June assassination attempt.

“I call on Western states… to begin proceedings to seize the possessions and money of Saleh and his family, because they belong to the Yemeni people,” he said in an interview with pan Arab daily al-Hayat, adding those funds could be used to repay the country’s debts.

The protests have paralyzed the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, where even before the unrest some 40 percent of the population lived on less than $2 per day.

Governments worldwide have responded to crackdowns on Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan protesters this year by freezing their long-time leaders’ assets.

But while veteran presidents in Egypt and Tunisia bowed to pressure they quit, Saleh has proved a shrewd political survivor, and officially remains in power.