Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh is to travel to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, diplomatic sources said Thursday, as his opponents called for him to be kept out of politics ahead of a stalled national dialogue.
"One week ago, Saleh applied for a visa to receive medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. There is Saudi approval for the request," a diplomat said.
Diplomatic sources said the former president had received a visa to continue his treatment in Italy one month ago, but that he did not travel out of fear of possible prosecution on human rights charges.
Saleh's supporters and troops have been accused of killing hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising against his 33-year rule.
In June the same year, he was wounded in a bomb attack that targeted his palace in Sanaa and was flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment.
After signing a November 2011 transfer of power deal, he returned to Yemen where he has continued to lead his General People's Congress party. Under the terms of the agreement, he enjoys immunity from prosecution in Yemen.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
"Saleh prefers Saudi doctors," a source from his party told AFP. "A metallic rod will be removed from his leg and he will also undergo plastic surgery."
Saleh's opponents have been calling for his ouster as head of the GPC and for him to be kept out of politics ahead of a promised national dialogue that had been due to start in November.
The talks were delayed after factions of the Southern Movement, which advocates autonomy or secession for the formerly independent south, refused to take part.
Three of the movement's four components have now agreed to participate and efforts are continuing to persuade the hardline faction of former vice president Ali Salem al-Baid to join too.
Baid's faction insists that the talks must take place between North and South Yemen as two independent states.
Four years after North and South Yemen unified, the south broke away in 1994, sparking a short civil war that ended with the region being overrun by northern troops.
No date has yet been set for the national dialogue but political sources said it could begin later this month or in early February.