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Will step down: Yemen prez

world Updated: Feb 03, 2011 00:36 IST

Reuters
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Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Wednesday he will not seek to extend his presidency when his term expires in 2013 - a move that would end his three-decade rule.

Eyeing protests that brought down Tunisia's leader and threaten to topple Egypt's president, Saleh also vowed not to pass on the reins of government to his son, but asked the opposition to postpone planned protests.

"I present these concessions in the interests of the country. The interests of the country come before our personal interests," Saleh said.

"No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock," he added, making reference to ruling party proposals to institute term limits that had been seen as allowing him to run again.

His remarks came a day before a rally organised by the opposition, named a "Day of Rage", expected to be a barometer of strength of the Yemeni people's will to follow Egypt and Tunisia in demanding a change of government. "I call on the opposition to freeze all planned protests, rallies and sit-ins," Saleh said.

Yemen, already teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state, is trying to fight a resurgent al-Qaida, cement peace with Shia rebels in the north and quell separatism in the south, all in the face of crushing poverty that has left a third of Yemenis suffering from chronic hunger.

Saleh had offered smaller concessions on presidential term limits and pledged to raise salaries of civil servants and military personnel by about $47 (£29) a month, no small move in a country where about 40% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

Yemen's current rules would require Saleh to step down as president when his term ends in 2013. But some members of his ruling party riled the opposition late last year by floating a proposal to lift that limit.