SANAA - Fighting flared on Tuesday in a southern Yemen city seized by al-Qaida and other Islamist militants, killing at least 15 people, after Washington urged President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power peacefully.
Saleh left for Saudi Arabia at the weekend for surgery on wounds suffered in an attack on his palace in Sanaa -- an absence that could be an opportunity to ease him out of office after nearly 33 years ruling the impoverished Arab nation.
Global powers worry that chaos would make it easier for the Yemen-based wing of al-Qaida to operate and multiply risks for neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf oil producers.
Yemen's acting leader, Vice President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, said Saleh would return within days, but the position of Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally played an influential role in Yemeni politics, could now be decisive.
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