New York: The Obama administration has given an "in principle" nod to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's visit to the US for medical treatment, with the embattled leader likely to arrive at a hospital here by the end of the week.
The approval for Saleh's visit to the US is however conditional upon "certain assurances" including a proposed itinerary, a report in daily newspaper said.
The report quoted administration officials as saying that while no visa has yet been issued to Saleh, there was no further "impediment" to issuing the visa and he could arrive at "New York's Presbyterian Hospital as soon as the end of this week" for additional treatment of medical problems he has due to injuries he sustained in a bomb blast in June at the mosque in his presidential complex.
It is expected that Saleh will seek treatment at the NewYork-Presbyterian. The hospital's spokeswoman Myrna Manners said in the report she could not confirm whether Saleh would
be going there. "As of now, we are not admitting him to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital," she said.
Saleh will step down after presidential elections in February. He had said last week he wanted to visit the United States but had added that he was not seeking treatment for wounds he had sustained in the attack.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had previously said that Saleh would visit New York for medical treatment.
The report said the decision to admit the Yemeni leader's request has led to a heated debate within the Obama administration, amid concerns by some officials that in allowing Saleh to enter the country, the administration will "face sharp criticism for appearing to provide a safe haven for a reviled Arab figure accused of responsibility for the death of hundreds of anti-government protesters."
While the Obama administration is keen on seeing political progress in Yemen, it does not want to allow Saleh to use his medical visit as a way to shore up his political position, the report said.
If Saleh is issued the visa, he would be the first Arab leader to be granted request for an extended stay in the US since the uprising began in the Middle East region almost a year ago.
"In the end, we felt there was enough good to be gained that it was worth managing the criticism that we'd get, including any comparisons to past episodes," an official said, referring to President Jimmy Carter's decision in 1979 to admit the ailing Shah of Iran into the US for treatment.
"The main goal is to remove him physically from Yemen so there's no way he can meddle in the political process there," the official said.
Saleh had contacted the American Embassy in Yemen's capital Sana regarding the visa, officials said.