Yemen's president may be able to come to the United States, an Obama administration official said Monday after the U.S. received a request to allow Ali Abdullah Saleh to get medical treatment to recover from injuries sustained in a June 3 bomb blast against his presidential palace.
The request for approval for Saleh to travel to the United States is currently under consideration, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The only reason that travel to the United States by Saleh would be approved would be for legitimate medical treatment, the official said.
Saleh was injured in a blast on the presidential palace in the capital of Sanaa last June. The blast was one of several violent responses between Arab Spring protesters and the hardline regime. Saleh initially went to Saudi Arabia, where he stayed for months recovering from injuries from the attack.
Yemen has been in turmoil since February when demonstrators began protesting against Saleh and calling for his ouster. The Yemeni government responded with force, leaving hundreds of protesters dead and stoking fears of instability. Saleh had not been expected to return after his injuries but surprised many by trying to regain power.
Last month, Saleh agreed to a U.S.- and Saudi-backed deal to hand over authority to his vice president and commit to stepping down completely in exchange for immunity. The deal further angered Saleh's opponents, who demanded he be tried for his attacks on protesters.
On Saturday, activists claimed that troops commanded by Saleh's relatives attacked protesters in Sanaa, killing at least nine people. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated the following day, protesting the deaths and demanding the resignation of Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi for failing to bring the killers to justice.
On Monday, President Obama's counterterrorism chief John Brennan called Hadi to discuss recent violence in Sanaa and the political transition. While Saleh had not been expected to return after he was hurt, a power vacuum and the spreading presence of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has led to concerns about a major security meltdown in the geographically significant Arab state.
According to the White House, Brennan emphasized the need for Yemeni security forces to show "maximum restraint" and for all sides to "refrain from provocative acts that could spur further violence."
Hadi told Brennan that he had launched an investigation into the recent deaths and injuries and would do his utmost to prevent further bloodshed, the White House said.
Yemen is expected to hold a presidential election on Feb. 21.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.