The White House is considering Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih’s request to visit the United States for medical treatment, but has made no decision.
According to a senior administration official, Salih’s office contacted the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, saying the Yemeni leader wants to visit to receive specialized medical care for injuries he suffered in a terrorist attack on the President Palace last June.
On Saturday, Salih told reporters he is heading for the U.S., but did not specify when he plans to leave or where exactly he intends to go.
Salih said he was in good health, but wanted to visit to get out of the spotlight and “allow the unity government to prepare properly for elections.”
The Obama administration would only allow Salih to visit for legitimate medical treatment.
On Christmas day, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan called Yemeni Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi to discuss the recent outbreak of violence in Sanaa, where forces loyal to the Salih opened fire on protestors, killing 9 people and wounding many more.
Salih agreed last month to step down to make way for new elections in February, and has said he himself plans to eventually join the opposition in the streets.
The White House is pushing for Yemeni security forces to show restraint, and says Vice President Hadi assured Brennan he would “do his utmost to prevent further bloodshed.”
White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “Mr. Brennan told Vice President Hadi that the United States remains a strong and fervent supporter of the Yemeni people in their quest to realize their richly deserved aspirations for security, political stability, representative government, and economic prosperity. ”