News / Middle East

Yemen's President Vows to Step Down Soon

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh delivers his speech on state television in this still image taken from video, October 8, 2011.
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh delivers his speech on state television in this still image taken from video, October 8, 2011.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh says he is ready to give up power and will do so "in the coming days."

He made the announcement in a speech broadcast by state-run television on Saturday.  

Mr. Saleh, Yemen's ruler for 33 years, said he does not want power and will relinquish it soon.  In addition to not specifying a date, he gave no indication of how or to whom` he will entrust the Yemeni government.  

Mr. Saleh said the "men ... who will take power" could be either civilians or members of the military.  He did make clear, however, that he will not deal with opposition activists who have been campaigning for his departure for nearly nine months.  He said in his broadcast address to the nation it would be "impossible to let them destroy the country."

In addition to continuing mass demonstrations in Sana'a, the capital, and other cities, Mr. Saleh's forces have clashed in recent weeks with tribal leaders and their loyalists, who now support the political opposition.

Mr. Saleh has appeared to be close to relinquishing power on three occasions since April.  In each case, he agreed to sign a power-transfer plan brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).  However, he backed out before the 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.

Opposition activists, including Yemen's new Nobel Peace Prize winner, have expressed skepticism over Mr. Saleh's latest announcement.  Tawakkul Karman said Saturday that anti-government activists do not believe the president will resign.

In a separate development Saturday, activists urged protesters across Yemen to rally in support of Karman, who is a prominent opposition figure. She is one of three women who were awarded the peace prize on Friday.

Mr. Saleh returned to Yemen last month. He had been in Saudi Arabia since June receiving treatment for injuries sustained in an attack on his presidential compound in Sana'a.

Also Saturday, an explosion rocked a police station in the southern city of Aden.  Officials say the blast killed one security officer and wounded at least five people.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
However, Yemeni forces have been battling al-Qaida-linked militants who have strongholds in several southern towns.

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

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