News / Middle East

Yemen Opposition Skeptical of President's Pledge to Step Down

Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, one of the three recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, reacts as she receives congratulations from protestors at her tent in Change Square in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011.
Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, one of the three recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, reacts as she receives congratulations from protestors at her tent in Change Square in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011.

Yemen's political opposition says it is skeptical of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's broadcast statement Saturday that he is ready to give up power and will do so "in the coming days."

Opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri said the president's statement is intended to generate headlines before a U.N. Security Council meeting Tuesday that is to discuss the failed efforts to convince Mr. Saleh to sign a power transition deal.

Al-Sabri said four months have passed since President Saleh said he accepted the Gulf Cooperation Council transition deal, and if he is serious he should resign immediately.

Mr. Saleh has appeared to be close to relinquishing power on three occasions since April.  Each time he backed out before the transition deal could be signed. The GCC plan calls for him to hand over power to a deputy and allow a coalition to form a national unity government.

Yemen's new Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman also expressed skepticism, saying Saturday anti-government activists do not believe the president will resign.

In his speech, Mr. Saleh repeated his condition that he will not hand power to long-time rivals from the opposition parties, who he says have hijacked the youth activists' protest that began earlier this year, during the so-called Arab Spring.  He says the opposition aims to subvert the constitutional process and "destroy the country."    

Opposition spokesman al-Sabri said Mr. Saleh's speech was addressed to the West because it was aired at a time when there was no electricity in Yemen, and no one would be watching.  Electricity in Sanaa has been sporadic, sometimes off for as long as two days at a time during the past few weeks.

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