Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been accused of meddling in his country’s fragile political transition, was in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for treatment, a Yemeni diplomat said.
Meanwhile, thousands of Yemeni workers have been expelled from Saudi Arabia after it imposed new labor constraints affecting millions of expatriates in the oil-rich kingdom.
The new regulations introduced by the Saudi labor ministry aim to reduce the number of foreign workers to create jobs for millions of unemployed Saudis.
Around one million Yemenis live in neighboring Saudi Arabia, transferring around $4 billion annually to their impoverished nation, according to non-official estimates.
Sanaa formed a ministerial commission last week tasked with working with Saudi authorities to soften the impact of the new rules, the official said.
Yemen already faces an economic crisis exacerbated by political instability and poor security.
Saleh arrived for medical tests and treatment in the Saudi capital on Monday, his party, General People’s Congress (GPC), said. He spent time recovering in a Riyadh hospital in June 2011 after an attack on his compound left him seriously wounded.
A Yemeni diplomat confirmed to AFP that Saleh was in Riyadh and sources in the GPC said that Saudi Arabia chartered a plane to take him to the kingdom.
Saleh was admitted to hospital, the head of the GPC parliamentary bloc, Sultan al-Barakani, told AFP. He did not elaborate on the nature of the treatment.
After 33 years as Yemen’s head of state, Saleh left power in February 2012 as part of an agreement for the transition of power in the country, which also gave him and his family immunity from prosecution.
He last visited Saudi Arabia in November 2011, when he traveled to Riyadh to sign the transitional agreement in the presence of Saudi King Abdullah, one of the plan’s main sponsors.
Saleh’s latest trip to Saudi Arabia comes just two weeks after the start of a national dialogue in Sanaa aimed at preparing a new constitution and general elections for February 2014, when the two-year transitional period will end.
Although weakened, the ex-president, whose supporters still wield much influence in Yemen, has seemed reluctant to retire from political life.
His opponents suspect him of trying to hamper the transition, which has come to an impasse over the refusal of southern separatists to take part in national dialogue.
On February 15 the United Nations once again threatened sanctions against anyone who interfered in the delicate transition process, naming Saleh explicitly.