Yemeni leader granted 'limited' medical visit to US
WASHINGTON - The United States on Sunday approved a visit from Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh for medical treatment but said it was with the understanding that he would stay only for a "limited time."
Saleh, who sustained serious injuries in a bomb attack at his presidential palace last June, left Yemen earlier on Sunday for neighboring Oman, where he was expected to spend a few days before traveling on to New York.
His departure came a day after parliament adopted a law giving him "complete" immunity from prosecution in return for stepping down under a transition deal brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
"Ali Abdullah Saleh's request to travel to the US for medical treatment has been approved," the US State Department said.
"As we have indicated, the sole purpose of this travel is for medical treatment and we expect that he will stay for a limited time that corresponds to the duration of this treatment."
In a televised farewell speech delivered just hours before he left, Saleh said he was heading to the United States for medical treatment and asked Yemenis for forgiveness for shortcomings during his 33-year-long rule.
His trip to the United States could open Washington to charges of harboring a brutal ruler responsible for the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators.
Analysts said last month that Saleh would face stringent conditions in return for admission to a New York hospital, possibly including a ban on media interviews to deprive him of a political platform.
Critics want Saleh to be brought to justice for offenses they say include the brutal suppression of a year-long uprising that left hundreds dead.
The 69-year-old was badly injured in an attack on his presidential palace in June after which he spent several months in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
Parliament on Saturday also adopted a law approving Saleh's long-time deputy, Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, as the consensus candidate in the February 21 election to succeed him.