Over the weekend, President Obama's top counterterrorism official travelled to Saudi Arabia to talk to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in the country recovering from injuries he sustained during a bomb attack at his presidential palace in Sanaa. According to a White House statement, John Brennan wished Saleh a speedy recovery, then called upon him to "to fulfill expeditiously his pledge to sign the GCC-brokered agreement for peaceful and Constitutional political transition in Yemen."
In one of its most pointed public statements, the White House said the U.S. would like that transition to begin "immediately."
The AP reports that it didn't look like Saleh, who has reneged on signing the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement on several occasions, was any closer to stepping down:
President Saleh, who has held on to power for over three decades, has balked at signing the deal to step down. A Yemeni government statement said he told his American visitor that any transfer of power must be carried out in a democratic framework and under the guidance of the constitution, suggesting a gradual process that he wants to oversee. The statement said President Saleh views the proposal as a "basis" for a national dialogue, language that suggests the Yemeni leader hasn't agreed to adopt the document.
In the statement, the White House said that the transition was necessary so Yemeni people "can realize their aspirations," but it also pointed to the threat of al-Qaida. The AP reports that Brennan's visit comes as al-Qaida-linked militants have captured and held territories in southern Yemen, taking advantage of the country's instability.
Saleh and Brennan met in hospital. Saleh made his first TV appearance last Thursday night. The AFP reported at the time that he "was barely recognizable." His face was burned and his hands were covered with bandages.