Yemen's Saleh backs peaceful power transfer, early polls
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh called on Sunday for early presidential and parliamentary elections that would lead to a peaceful transfer of power in the country, dpa reported.
He also renewed his commitment to a Gulf-brokered deal aimed at ending the unrest that has left more than 650 people dead since February.
"We repeat our commitment to the Gulf initiative, to implement it as it is, and for it to be signed by the Vice President Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi," Saleh said in a televised address marking the 49th anniversary of the September 26 revolution, when Yemen was proclaimed a republic.
He said elections would be held after the agreement, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), was signed.
Last week, Saleh mandated Hadi to talk with the Joint Meeting Parties, a group of opposition parties who joined forces against the government.
Saleh had previously refused repeatedly to sign the deal, which would ensure him immunity against prosecution. Protesters have been calling for him to be put on trial for the death of protesters.
The pact also calls for Saleh to step down within a month once he signs it, with presidential elections to be held two months later.
Saleh's call for dialogue came hours after at least six people were killed in renewed violence between his forces, protesters and opposition tribesmen in Yemen's largest two cities.
"This bloodbath will not get you power," Saleh said, addressing his opponents.
The president thanked the United States and Saudi Arabia for their support and cooperation with Yemen in the struggle against "terrorist elements," referring to his opponents as criminals and terrorists.
On Friday, Saleh returned to Sana'a after more than three months in Saudi Arabia recovering from an attack on his presidential palace.
"Only God knows - but you also know - who was behind that criminal attack," Saleh said addressing his people.
On Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz called for the implementation of the GCC pact.
"I believe that the Gulf initiative remains the one capable of providing a way out of the Yemeni crisis," he said in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Three people were killed in Sana'a when forces loyal to Saleh attacked anti-government protesters and residential areas that announced loyalty to the opposition Yemeni Democracy Movement, according to the global rights group Avaaz.
Earlier in the day, three people were also killed in clashes between government troops and tribal forces opposing Saleh in Taiz, Yemen's second biggest city.
Yemen's elite Republican Guard forces, blamed by the opposition for attacks on anti-government protesters, is commanded by Saleh's son Ahmed.
At least 40 Yemenis were killed Saturday in Yemen's violence, according to local medical and human rights sources.
UN Security Council members late Saturday expressed "grave concern" at the deteriorating situation in Yemen and called for an end to violence.
Millions of Yemenis have taken to the streets since February this year, demanding an end to Saleh's 33-year rule, which started in July 1978.