Saleh calls for early election as Yemenis protest

May 20, 2011 15:45

SANAA - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh called on Friday for early elections in an apparent bid to stave off Gulf and Western pressure to leave office, as thousands rallied for and against his three-decade rule.

Saleh has twice backed out of a Gulf Arab-brokered transition deal, most recently last Wednesday, despite diplomatic wrangling by US, Gulf and European officials.

Washington and Riyadh, both targets of foiled attacks by al-Qaida's Yemen-based wing, are keen to end a stalemate that has pushed fractious Yemen further onto the brink of chaos and could give the militant network more room to operate.

Saleh in March called for a presidential election by the end of this year, but in his Friday speech he did not give any time frame or details on a plan for an election, leaving some sceptical it may be a tactic to buy time.

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