WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Washington sees February elections in Yemen as an opportunity for the country to address a variety of long-term challenges, a U.S. official said.
Embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh late last year signed a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council to step aside in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
He spent much of last year at a military hospital in Saudi Arabia recovering from wounds suffered during a June assassination attempt and is now headed to the United States for additional medical treatment.
Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, met with Yemen's vice president and other political and civil leaders in Sanaa. Her visit in Yemen was the first by a senior U.S. official since Saleh signed the GCC deal in November.
Sherman said a February election would "begin a new chapter" in Yemen's history and "lead to additional reform," the U.S. State Department said in a readout of the meeting. She encouraged the Yemeni government and its people to "seize the opportunity" ushered in by the GCC deal.
U.N. officials expressed their position that the GCC immunity deal was in contrast to international norms regarding authorities accused of committing crimes against their people. The State Department said of Saleh's visit that he has diplomatic privileges extended to sitting heads of state.