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Ali Abdullah Saleh
Arabic: ¢alī ¢abd allah 'as-salih

Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of Yemen

Ali Abdullah Saleh.

(1942-) President of North Yemen 1978-1990, continuing as president of unified Yemen since 1990.
Saleh's main effort has been to unify Yemen, which he succeeded with in 1990. The unification was however challenged by the southern rebellion in 1994, which he crushed.
His regime has been predominantly authoritarian, oriented towards pan-Arab interests, and has resulted in a few periods of tension with Saudi Arabia. Internally he has been known for putting people from his own family and tribe in important bureaucratic positions.
The growth of the Yemeni nation has been weak under his rule, and the infrastructure, living standards and internal security has not improved much. In some respects, it has even deteriorated.
He has allowed the development of some democratic structures, but curbed any real opposition to his regime. While being formally elected president, he is really a dictator.


1942: Born in Bayt al-Ahmar as a member of the Sanhan tribe of the Hashid tribe.
1958: Joins the army only 16 years old.
1962 September 26: Saleh leads a coup that replaces the Muslim monarchy of North Yemen with a civilian government.
1974: Saleh takes part in the coup that brings Ibrahim al-Hamdi to power as president.
1978 April: Assists the chairman of the Military Council, Ahmad Ghashmi in his crushing of a rebellion staged by rival officers. Saleh is appointed commander-in-chief of the army.
June: Ghashmi is assassinated, and Saleh is appointed chief of staff and member of the Presidential Council.
July 17: Is elected president by 76 of the 96 members of the People's Constituent Assembly.
October An attempted coup by troops in the army is stopped.
1980: Saleh and the rebellious forces of the National Democratic Front (NDF) makes a deal about a national unity government with land reform and non-aligned foreign policy as the main political issues. Saleh would not keep his promise of inviting NDF into the government.
August: After that Saudi Arabia had stopped their US$300 billion annual aid to Yemen, Saleh manages through a visit to get a partial resumption of the aid.
October: Replaces Prime minister Ghani with Abdul Karim Iryani.
1981 October: Forms the General People's Congress (GPC) with 1,000 members, most by appointment and the rest by indirect election. This would develop into a political party.
1983: Reelected as president. Saleh calls Ghani back as Prime minister.
1984: Signs a Friendship and Cooperation Treaty with the Soviet Union.
1988: Reelected as president.
1989: Brings North Yemen into the Arab Cooperation Council together with Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
1990 May 22: North and South Yemen unites, with Saleh becoming the country's president, while the president of South Yemen becomes Vice President.
1991: Following Yemen's refusal to join the alliance against Iraq in the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia imposes heavy sanctions on Yemen, damaging the country's economy.
1993: Saleh's party, GPC, becomes the largest party in the parliament with 123 of 301 seats.
1994 May 5-July 7: Civil war between the south and north, which Saleh wins. The victory earned him great popularity in the areas of former North Yemen.
1999 September: The first direct elections for president gives Saleh 96% of the votes, but most of the opposition boycotts the election.

By Tore Kjeilen