Yemen president says he is ‘ready to step down’

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told an Arab television network that he is “ready to step down with respect and dignity, even within a two hours notice.”

But Saleh, speaking to Al Arabiya television on Saturday, also warned that some leadership factions have a “foreign agenda.”

The interview came one day after after the Yemeni president spoke to thousands at a pro-government demonstration in an effort to underscore his intentions to have a dialogue with anti-government protesters and make concessions to avoid bloodshed.

Saleh told the crowd that while he is ready to hand over authority, he won’t do so to “gangs,” “drug dealers” or the Houthi rebels fighting the government

Protesters have called for the ouster of Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978.

The country has been wracked by a Shiite Muslim uprising, a U.S.-aided crackdown on al Qaeda operatives and a looming shortage of water.

Protesters cite government corruption, a lack of political freedom and high unemployment that have fueled much of the anger among a growing young population steeped in poverty.

Saleh had promised not to run for president in the next round of elections. But Yemen’s parliament this week approved a 30-day extension of emergency powers Saleh declared last week in response to protests.

The emergency law expands the government’s powers of arrest, detention and censorship.

(edition.cnn.com / 26.03.2011)

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