'Yemen's Saleh willing to step down by year's end'

After army commanders say they have switched support to pro-democracy activists, embattled president reportedly says he will quit.

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
March 22, 2011 13:31
2 minute read.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh 311 Reu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is willing to step down by the end of the year as part of a constitutional transfer of power, The Associated Press quoted spokesman Ahmed al-Sufi as saying on Tuesday.

According to the report, Saleh informed Yemeni officials and military commanders of his intentions on Monday.

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Sufi reportedly added that Saleh vowed never to hand over power to the military.

Saleh had rejected previous calls from the opposition to step down by year's end.

On Tuesday, Saleh said the Arabian Peninsula state could descend into civil war because of efforts to stage what he called a "coup" against his rule.

Senior army commanders said on Monday they had switched support to pro-democracy activists who have been protesting for weeks, demanding that the veteran ruler stand down.

"Those who want to climb up to power through coups should know that this is out of the question. The homeland will not be stable, there will be a civil war, a bloody war. They should carefully consider this," he said in a speech before commanders.

General Ali Mohsen, commander of the northwest military zone and Saleh's kinsmen from the al-Ahmar clan, said on Al Jazeera on Monday he was backing the protesters and himself warned of civil war if repression of protest continued.

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"I say clearly to the brother officers (who resigned) as a result of weakness and media intimidation: The media has terrorized them until they fell like autumn leaves and they shall regret it," Saleh said in the speech, which was later broadcast on Yemeni state television.

In a separate speech to tribal leaders in Sanaa, many of whom say they back the protesters, Saleh repeated his civil war warning and added that the country could face disintegration.

"You have an agenda to tear down the country, the country will be divided into three instead of two halfs. A southern part, northern part and a middle part. This is what is being sought by defectors against the unity," he said, referring to northern Shi'ite rebels and al Qaida militants.

The death of 52 protesters in Sanaa on Friday at the hands of plainclothes snipers has been the spark behind the string of defections that threatens to finally undo Saleh's domination.


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