Yemen president suggests protesters form their own party
As Yemen's opposition coalition prepared for protests dubbed the Friday of Departure, President Ali Abdullah Saleh proposed an amnesty for soldiers who had defected to the opposition and suggested anti-government protesters form their own political party, dpa reported.
Protesters seeking to unseat Saleh plan to march Friday to his palace. Saleh on Thursday night scoffed at a claim by Mohammed Qahtan, spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) opposition alliance, that the demonstrators would march into the palace to the president's bedroom.
The rally could draw hundreds of thousands of people after Friday prayers.
Saleh also said during an emergency roundtable session with interior and defence leaders that was aired on the state television Thursday night that soldiers who had defected to the opposition should come to their senses and he would offer them pardons to rejoin the government side.
"As for those military personnel who aligned with the JMP, they have committed a big mistake," Saleh said, adding, "We are concerned about the integrity and tenacity of the military institution and, therefore, we announce a public pardon for those who committed this mistake."
He did not give details about the conditions of the pardons.
He also addressed anti-government protesters, suggesting they form their own party to express their views independently of the JMP.
He blamed the opposition for price hikes and the scarcity of fuel after an attack on a power plant in Marib province and laying siege to branches of the Central Bank of Yemen in Marib, Saada and Amran provinces.
The Defence Ministry said large numbers of pro-government tribesmen were flocking to the capital, Sana'a, to support the president Friday. Such a development might alter protesters' plans to march to the presidential palace to avoid clashes with government loyalists.
Anti-Saleh protesters have been rallying for more than a month for his ouster after 32 years of ruling Yemen. Friday's demonstration is planned a week after a sniper attack on protesters, which killed 53 people and injured 240. Many of those killed were shot in the chest and in the back of their heads in what witnesses described as an attack by state security.