Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh 311 Reu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
SANAA - Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, hoping to defuse increasingly violent protests against his 32-year rule, said on Thursday he would draw up a new constitution to create a parliamentary system of government.
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An opposition spokesman swiftly rejected the proposal, and called for anti-government rallies to continue.
Yemen, a neighbor of oil giant Saudi Arabia and the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, has been rocked by weeks of demonstrations against Saleh's autocratic administration.
Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters gathered in a soccer
stadium, Saleh said he hoped his opponents would join a unity government
to help put in place a new political system, but added that he doubted
they would join forces with him.
"Firstly we will form a new
constitution based on the separation of powers. A referendum on this new
constitution will be held before the end of this year," he said.
"I'm already sure that this initiative won't be accepted by the
opposition, but in order to do the right thing, I am offering this to
the people and they will decide," he added.
An opposition spokesman said the proposals did not meet the protesters' demands.
initiative is too late. The demands on the street go beyond that and
are bigger than that," said the spokesman, Mohammed Qahtan.
has governed Yemen for 32 years, but his rule has come under severe
threat by nationwide demonstrations that have left almost 30 people
The president has already made a number of concessions to
his opponents, but has refused to bow to their central demand that he
relinquish power immediately, saying he wanted to see out his term which
expires in 2013.