Yemen president says he wants to leave power

October 8, 2011 - 11:55 AM
Mideast Yemen

In this image made from video, Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks on Yemen State Television broadcast Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. The TV broadcast showed Saleh talking to unidentified members of the Yemen parliament, railing against the opposition and calling the crisis a

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — President Ali Abdullah Saleh made vague comments Saturday that he is willing to leave power in his first major speech since returning Yemen, but he gave no concrete plan for the future of the country.

It was not the first time Saleh has expressed a willingness to step down amid eight months of mass protests demanding his ouster. Still, he has repeatedly refused to resign immediately and rejected a U.S.-backed deal for him to hand over his authority.

Saleh was gravely wounded in aan explosion at his presidential palace in June, after which he left to Saudi Arabia for treatment. During his absence, mediators and opposition groups sought to convince him to stay away and transfer power to his deputy— a way to launch the regional power transfer deal. Saleh declined and returned abruptly to Yemen late last month.

A violent crackdown against Saleh's opponents followed, with outright street battles in the capital Sanaa between troops loyal to Saleh's son Ahmed and dissident military units and pro-opposition tribesmen. In the meantime, the longtime leader has come under a considerable pressure from the international community to step down.

His new declaration Saturday aired on state TV gave little clue to his intentions.

Saleh spoke to a gathering of lawmakers, his hands encased in brown gloves, apparently because of burns from the June bombing.

"I never wanted power. I will reject power in the coming days. I will give it up," he said. "But there are men will take power. There are men who are true to their pledges, whether military or civilians, who will take power. They can never destroy the country."

He did not elaborate on whom he was referring to or give any firm committment to resign. Saleh said he would meet with parliament in the coming days to "transparently discuss" the situation in Yemen.

Saleh railed against the opposition forces, which he accused of being behind the chaos on the country. He also said they failed to cooperate with his deputy, who took over some of his duties while he was away. He said the opposition groups are holders of a "dark and destructive project."

Saleh said he returned from Saudi Arabia with "an olive branch and a dove of peace" but said his opponents failed to seize it or understand it. He also said that a major country had asked him to not to return to Yemen, a request he said he declined.

"I am not a transit president," he said.