(WASHINGTON) — The White House is considering Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s request to visit the United States for medical treatment, but has made no decision.
According to a senior administration official, Saleh’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 presidential palace in June.
On Saturday, Saleh 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. Saleh 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 Saleh 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 Saleh opened fire on protesters, killing nine people and wounding many more.
Saleh agreed last month to step down to make way for new elections in February.
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.”
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN