Yemen's President Saleh promises to step down

Yemen's President Saleh promises to step down

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Saturday he planned to step down "in the coming days," in another speech in which he attacked his opponents as terrorists and criminals, DPA reported.

"I reject power and I will reject it in the coming days and will give it up," he told a meeting with parliamentarians.

Saleh said that there were "sincere men, whether they be military or civilian" who were capable of governing Yemen and that it was "impossible to let them (his opponents) destroy the country."

During his address, carried by the state-run September 26 news website, Saleh accused the opposition of cutting electricity, blocking fuel, kidnapping people and attacking security forces.

His attack on the opposition came one day after prominent rights activist Tawakul Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Karman has been a key force in rallying demonstrations against Saleh for the past three years.

Representatives of the ruling party said that Saleh would only resign under the framework of a Gulf initiative, which aims to end the eight-month unrest in the country.

Saleh has repeatedly said he is committed to the deal, though he has so far refused to sign it.

The Gulf initiative calls for Saleh to step down within a month of it being signed, with presidential elections to be held two months later. It also grants him immunity from prosecution.

Saleh has also said before that he will not quit power until elections are held.

Ibrahim Mohamed al-Saidi, a youth opposition leader, told broadcaster Al Jazeera that Saleh's words were "the same old broken tune with the song that is 'I will leave, I will leave, but I will never leave.'"

The opposition website Mareb Press claimed that Saleh's health had "significantly" deteriorated since his return from Saudi Arabia late last month.

The president returned to Yemen last month after spending more than three months in Riyadh, where he underwent surgery and medical treatment after an attack on his presidential compound in early June.

"President Saleh is suffering several health problems, mainly in respiration and hearing," the website said, quoting a senior source in Saleh's ruling party.

The source added that Saleh's family had asked Saudi Arabia to dispatch a medical team, which had recommended that Saleh, 69, should leave Yemen for further medical treatment.

Yemen has been gripped since February by an uprising calling for Saleh to step down after 33 years in power. Government figures show that at least 1,480 people have been killed since protests began.

Earlier Saturday, a group of Muslim clerics in Yemen called for the embattled president to "swiftly" transfer power to head off further bloodshed in the country.

"President Saleh's retention of power could provide a pretext for foreign intervention in the country and internationalization of the Yemeni problem," they said in a statement.

Meanwhile clashes erupted Saturday in the southern city of Taiz between forces loyal to Saleh and his opponents.

Pro-Saleh troops also shelled the district of Al Ruda in Taiz where politicians opposing Saleh live.

There were no reports of casualties in the violence, which has affected Taiz sporadically for the last three days.

In the southern province of Aden, at least one soldier was killed and seven injured when a bomb exploded in a police station, according to security sources.

Aden has been the scene of several explosions targeting police stations over the past seven months.

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