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Yemen Government Official: Deal on President's Ouster Being Worked Out


Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh delivers a speech to his supporers in Sana'a, March 25, 2011

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh delivers a speech to his supporers in Sana'a, March 25, 2011

A top Yemeni government official says he hopes a deal on President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure can be concluded as early as Saturday.

Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told Reuters news the timeline for Saleh's transfer of power could be negotiated, saying that should not be an obstacle for reaching an agreement.

He said the president is willing to look at "all possibilities" as long as there are serious commitments from the opposition to initiate a serious dialogue with the ruling party. Negotiations also appear to be focused on the fate of the president's family members, many of whom run the country's security agencies.

However, opposition members have told Al-Jazeera television that they are receiving mixed signals on Saleh's willingness to end his 32-year rule.

Protestors are continuing to crowd the streets of Yemen, ramping up the pressure on Mr. Saleh to step down.

In a speech Friday in the capital Sana'a, Saleh told thousands of supporters that he was prepared to hand over power to what he described as "safe hands." As the president spoke, an even larger crowd of anti-government protesters across the city staged what it called a "Day of Departure" rally, demanding the president's immediate resignation.

The president said that "we don't want power," but added that he was not willing to cede control to, in his words, "sick, resentful or corrupt" people.

On Thursday, Saleh discussed a possible solution to Yemen's deepening political crisis with General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. The top Yemeni military officer had defected earlier in the week to the opposition after government forces killed more than 50 protestors.

Officials familiar with the negotiations said the talks focused on a civilian-led transitional council that would run the country until new parliamentary elections are held.

Opponents of President Saleh have been pressing ahead with demonstrations despite a newly-imposed state of emergency that gives security forces sweeping arrest powers.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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