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Officials rescued by helicopter in Yemen

by Jorge Hernandez on May 23, 2011

The uprisings in Yemen against the government recently took a turn for the worse when an armed crowd loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for 32 years, surrounded an embassy and trapped an American ambassador and other officials for hours.

The officials had been meeting to discuss how best for Saleh to peacefully transition from power. While the crowd that demonstrated outside was peaceful, they were loyal to the current President. Some believe that the government organized the protests in order to show how much support Saleh still has.

Other foreign embassies were blocked as well, and China's convoy came under attack, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

The ambassadors were trapped in the building for hours before being rescued by a military helicopter. Experts speculate that Saleh is creating situations so that he can show his power, at a time when many of his allies are urging him to step down.

"What we've seen… is something that Saleh is doing something he has done again and again… creating a crisis and then 'swooping in' to solve it," Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert with Princeton University, told the publication. "Hopefully, the deeply flawed, very problematic GCC deal can now be put to rest."

The GCC agreement would prompt Saleh to step down within 30 days and effectively hand over power to his vice president. While it is backed by a number of Arab countries, President Obama's support has been seen as tepid at best. Critics noted that Yemen was barely mentioned in his speech about the Middle East, the news source reports.

Yemen has been a key ally in keeping track of Al Qaeda's terrorist network and there is a fear that if Saleh leaves, a party that is more sympathetic to the group could take power instead. 

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