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Yemen President Returns, Calls for Political Truce


Supporters of Yemen's President Ali Abduallah Saleh hold portraits of the leader and chant slogans during a rally celebrating his return to Sana'a, Yemen, September 23, 2011.

Supporters of Yemen's President Ali Abduallah Saleh hold portraits of the leader and chant slogans during a rally celebrating his return to Sana'a, Yemen, September 23, 2011.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to Yemen Friday, after nearly a week of sporadic clashes between his opponents and Republican Guard forces, led by his son.

Saleh left the country for treatment in neighboring Saudi Arabia in early June after being injured in an attack on his presidential palace.

Supporters of Saleh honked their car horns and shouted slogans after his arrival in the Yemeni capital around dawn Friday.

Hours after returning, he called for a truce and talks to end his country's political crisis.

Seleh had been in the Saudi capital Riyadh since early June, when he was seriously wounded in an explosion during Friday prayers at the presidential palace.

Many Yemenis had not expected him to come back and his return caught some off guard.

While backers welcomed the news, opponents of Saleh gathered in large numbers in the capital's “Change Square,” as well as in the central city of Taiz, after Friday prayers.

Analyst Abdel Raqib Mansour told Al-Hurra TV that Saleh's return will inflame passions on both sides.

He says that Saleh's return should give a boost to his supporters and embolden his opponents who have been calling for him to stand trial. He added Saleh's coming home will likely enflame the political tensions in the country.

In recent days, Yemen's political parties said they were working on a plan to force Saleh out of power.

Earlier this week, representatives of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met with Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Sana'a in an attempt to revive a long-stalled plan that calls for Saleh to hand over power to a deputy.

Saleh has agreed to the proposal three times since April. Each time, he backed out before a deal could be signed.

Stephen Steinbeiser, who heads the American Institute for Yemeni Studies in Sana'a, says Yemeni's are waiting for Saleh's next move.

“Every single person that I've talked to has a different opinion, whether they're loyalists to the president or part of the opposition. I think it depends really on what he wants to do. If he chooses a path of more confrontation," he said.

"Then things will escalate very quickly.... I suspect that he will try to regain control of the situation, and it may not be as violent as it has been,” he added.

Steinbeiser says that it would be an “auspicious time” for Saleh to finally sign the GCC agreement to step down, since next week marks the anniversary of a 1962 revolt against a hereditary ruler of the country.

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