Yemen's former air force chief denies links to airport shutdown

Yemen's former air force chief denies links to airport shutdown

Yemen's former air force chief Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar on Saturday denied links to the closure of Sanaa International Airport, saying he welcomes President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's decision to remove him from the air force, Xinhua reported.

"Maj. Gen. Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar and the Air Force are not standing behind the closure of Sanaa airport, or responsible for suspending the air traffic," according to a statement sent by the general's office, hours after the Yemen's aviation authorities suspended the air traffic.

The aviation authorities said Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, half brother of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, threatened to shoot down civil planes in protest against his dismissal.

"The Yemeni Aviation Authority and villagers from Bani al- Harith tribe were behind the shutdown of the airport, as the villagers claimed that the aviation authorities took over their lands and did not fulfill their promises of compensation," said the statement.

Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar was fired late Friday in a decree issued by Hadi, who intended to reform the army in order to pave the way for launching national dialogue to settle disputes between political factions after one-year unrest in the impoverished Arab country. In response, the fired general said he welcomed Hadi's decision.

"I welcome Hadi's decision and I comply with the implementations of the presidential decree," he said in the statement. However, he voiced objections to the UN-backed power transfer deal and demands to Hadi.

"In respect to implementing President Hadi's orders, it is necessary that the Gulf initiative must be executed in full, and without selecting terms... defected commander of the defected First Armored Davison, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, should be dismissed along with the defense minister and the chief of the general staff," he said.

He also demanded that "tribal leader Sadik al-Ahmar and his brothers should remove their militants from the capital Sanaa... as the political crisis will not be ended as long as those people still hold their positions and not comply with the deal as we do," the general said.

Earlier in the day, the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the ambassador of the European Union to Sanaa, who are overseeing the implementation of the deal that eased Saleh out of power, voiced full support to Hadi's action.

"The changes will serve to eliminate points of friction and reduce tensions as envisioned in the Gulf initiative and its implementing mechanism," the ambassadors said in a joint statement, calling for all Yemenis to cooperate fully with Hadi's decrees.

Hadi was elected on Feb. 21 as a consensus president for two- year interim period after the 33-year-ruler Saleh stepped down in return for complete immunity from prosecution.

Until Saturday night, the Sanaa International Airport was still closed, as some incoming flights were diverted to other airports in southern provinces.

Security officials at the airport denied that there were any attacks on the airport's facilities, saying the airport was not surrounded or threatened by any forces.

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