Yemeni protestors shrug off Saleh’s talk of stepping down
Yemeni protesters camped out in Sanaa's central square said on Sunday that President Ali Abdullah Saleh's suggestion that he would step down in the coming days was another promise that they were sure would be broken.world Updated: Oct 10, 2011 01:28 IST
Yemeni protesters camped out in Sanaa's central square said on Sunday that President Ali Abdullah Saleh's suggestion that he would step down in the coming days was another promise that they were sure would be broken.
Analysts mostly agree that the vow, made three times already this year by Yemen's long-time ruler, was a stalling tactic in a succession crisis that has spread turmoil through the country.
A government official said Saleh was merely indicating readiness in a speech on Saturday night to reach a deal to end months of popular unrest.
"Saleh is a liar, nothing has changed since his speech," said Mohammed al-Asl, a protest organizer. "We're used to this type of thing now. He just says anything to fool his own people, the world, and everyone. We're not paying any attention to this."
Protesters, camped out in tents in the area in Sanna now dubbed as "Change Square" were going about their usual business of buying food, cooking and chewing wads of qat, a popular mild leaf stimulant common in Yemen.
Saleh's foreign minister met the US ambassador for talks on Sunday, part of what many expect to be a diplomatic push to deflect any action by the UN Security Council when it is briefed on the Yemen situation in the coming days.
The wily leader, who came to power in 1978, is under pressure from international allies, street protesters, armed opponents and opposition parties to make good on promises to hand over power and end a crisis that has raised the specter of a failed Arab state overrun by militants.
Confusion over Saleh's intent has been familiar fare in a conflict that has dragged on since January when protesters first took to the streets to demand reform and end the authoritarian grip of Saleh and his family.
"I reject power and I will continue to reject it, and I will be leaving power in the coming days," the 69-year-old Saleh said on state television.
He has already pulled back three times from signing a Gulf Arab peace initiative that would have seen him form an opposition-led cabinet and then hand power to his deputy before early parliamentary and presidential elections.
Officials said often during his convalescence in Riyadh after an assassination attempt in June that he would return "in days" or "soon." He flew back unannounced in late September.
"He said this to show his commitment to this plan, but there is no plan for a resignation or transfer of powers before we have agreed and signed a deal. That would just plunge the country into chaos or even war," Deputy Information Minister Abdu al-Janadi told Reuters.
"He is ready to leave power in days, yes, but whether this happens in the coming days or months will depend on the success of negotiations for a deal."
Protests against Saleh's rule have eroded government control over parts Yemen and fanned fears al Qaeda's regional wing may use the upheaval to expand its foothold near oil-shipping routes through the Red Sea.
First Published: Oct 10, 2011 01:25 IST