Last updated: 24 March, 2012

US envoy headed for Yemen and Qatar

The top US diplomat for the Middle East heads to Sanaa on Sunday to meet senior government officials and activists amid a political transition after longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down.

During his stay in the Yemeni capital Sunday through Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will “highlight the US commitment to Yemen’s political transition as well as the need for the transition process to allow broad participation by the Yemeni people,” the State Department said.

Feltman was due to meet with President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and other senior government officials, along with youth leaders, women activists and media representatives, it added in a statement.

Under the terms of the Gulf-brokered agreement which he signed with the opposition in November, Saleh gave up the Sanaa presidency that he had held since 1978.

But he retains the leadership of the General People’s Congress party and aides have not ruled out his standing in a contested presidential election due to be held alongside new parliamentary polls in 2014.

Following his stay in Yemen, Feltman is due to travel to the Qatari capital Doha on Wednesday and Thursday to meet with senior government officials.

“His meetings will cover the full range of bilateral and regional issues, including ongoing efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria,” the State Department said.

Qatar has played a leading diplomatic role in regional and international efforts to halt the Syrian government crackdown on dissent, which shows no signs of abating after a bloody year in which monitors say over 9,000 people lost their lives.