June 29th, 2011

Exclusive: Yemeni VP talks with Nic Robertson

In an exclusive interview, Nic Robertson (@nicrobertsoncnn) speaks with Yemeni Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi, in his first interview with a western television network.

The interview will be released in two parts. Transcript of part one available after the jump.

Part 1 transcript:

Q. Mr. Vice President, you’ve seen President Saleh, you’ve seen his injuries. How bad are they?

A. I saw him immediately after the incident. He had burns on his face, burns on his hands, some burns on his chest. And there was a piece of wood that was sticking between his ribs. And now, thanks to God, the President’s health has improved a lot, and improves more everyday. And we’re waiting within the next hours for him to give a statement to the nation from Riyadh, through television. We hope he recovers very soon and comes back to Yemen.

Q. All the indications are this was a well planned, inside job, assassination attempt against the President. What are your investigations revealing?

A. I received a call from Mr. John Brennan immediately after the operations and I asked him to send a special team and we sealed off the area of the operations in order to allow the specialists to inspect accurately and precisely what happened. He sent some specialists who have already worked on this operations and also two other technicians from the FBI will arrive tomorrow. They belong to the team working here in Yemen. Until this moment, we have not yet received their report.

Q. But what about your investigation, Yemen’s investigation? The indications are this was an inside job, it was planned, this wasn’t rockets, these were bombs inside the mosque.

A. Actually we cannot prejudge, we have to wait. The explosion was inside the mosque, that’s right, but an exterior opening was occurred and we have to wait. Maybe it was a reaction from the explosion from inside. We have to wait for the final report.

Q. So this was a specific attack on the president directed at him to kill him?

A.. On the President and the leadership working with him.

Q. Why does the President insist on coming back to Yemen against pressure of the United States, against pressure from the opposition here? Many people consider him now to be part of the problem here in Yemen – not part of the solution – the reason why the economy is in bad shape, the reason why there is so much corruption. They say this would be a perfect opportunity for him to step down – he’s been injured.

A. He is part of solving the problems in Yemen. He is part of the political balance here in Yemen. He has been an expert in dealing with all differences, and with all political and tribal differences, and tribal approaches.
Q. Well let me ask you a very personal question. The President has lost the support of some of the most powerful, important and  influential tribes here. He’s lost the support of some of his key generals who’ve taken their army divisions away from the army. How long do you think the President can survive and go on in power? He’s lost huge and important support – political support, military support, tribal support.

A. Actually he has not lost all the support. This is what the opposition is saying.

Q. So you’re saying the President still has legitimacy to carry on for what, how many more years?

A. Actually we are discussing a mechanism to implement the GCC initiative. We are discussing with the Opposition alternatives, because one month for forming a government and sixty days for holding elections is not realistic, is not enough. We’re trying to prepare for the elections and the president is not going to run in these elections and he’s not going to nominate his son.

Q. How long before he comes back, in your estimation?

A. No one can tell. This is according to the doctors.

Q. Days?

A. Days, weeks, months.

Q. Months? It could be months?

A. It could be months. This is a decision up to the doctors.

Q. With the greatest respect, sir, you must have some idea of when the president will be ready to travel back

A. I have no idea about the exact date when he is coming.