Saleh steps down after 33 years at helm
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March 02, 2012
Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down after 33 years at the helm on Tuesday at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Sanaa, formally handing power over to his deputy, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

In a formal ceremony on Saturday, Yemen's outgoing President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, handed over power to his Vice President, Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi. Hadi received 99 percent of votes in last week's election which was criticized for being merely akin to a one-sided referendum in which voters had only one option -- a "Yes" vote for Hadi. The election officially ended the 33-year rule of Saleh, however many are concerned that he will maintain influence through his family network in leadership roles, and concerns were heightened as he announced his support for Hadi.

This fear made Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa boycott the power transfer ceremony and caused many Yemenis to protest, saying Hadi should not be seen with Saleh. U.S. President Barack Obama commended the transition, acclaiming the "new beginning" for Yemen. He said, "Under Hadi's leadership, Yemen has the potential to serve as a model for how peaceful transitions can occur when people resist violence and unite under a common cause." Hadi officially took office on Monday, and will oversee the drafting of a new constitution and is set to hold interim power until elections are to take place in two years. According to Saleh's aides, the ousted president will leave Yemen in two days to seek exile in Ethiopia. Protesters have called for his prosecution, challenging the Gulf Cooperation Council deal securing his immunity.

"I hand over the banner of revolution... to safe hands," said Saleh, the fourth veteran Arab leader to fall in just over a year, standing beside Hadi.

Yemen's new president will serve for an interim two-year period as stipulated by a Gulf-brokered power transition plan signed by Saleh last November.

Britain welcomed Sunday's swearing in of Hadi, calling on the new leader to "forge new trust and cooperation between the state and the people of Yemen".

But a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle outside the presidential palace on Saturday, killing 26 troops, casting a shadow over his electoral triumph.

"I welcome the inauguration of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi following last week's successful interim presidential election in Yemen," Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement issued Sunday.

"This election, a constitutional requirement and key milestone in Yemen's transition, represents the first change of head of state in over 33 years," he added.

"It offers the chance for the Yemeni government to forge new trust and cooperation between the state and the people of Yemen.

"There are those who seek to derail transition and choose violence over dialogue," warned Hague. "I urge all sides to peacefully embrace transition and take a place in the new political landscape."

In an address to the nation after being sworn in to succeed veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, Hadi vowed to fight against Al-Qaeda and restore security across his impoverished nation.

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