Thursday, March 24, 2011

Yemeni opposition rejects Saleh offer

Opposition coalition calls the president''s offer to step down "empty words" ahead of rally dubbed "Friday of departure".


Yemen''s opposition groups have dismissed President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s offer to stand down after a presidential election at the end of the year, stepping up efforts to remove him from power.

Yassin Noman, head of Yemen''s opposition coalition, dismissed Saleh''s offer as "empty words" and a spokesman said the umbrella coalition would not respond.

"No dialogue and no initiatives for this dead regime," opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabry said on Thursday.

Tensions ratcheted higher a day ahead of a planned rally that protesters have dubbed "Friday of Departure", and presidential guards loyal to Saleh clashed with army units backing opposition groups demanding his ouster.

The opposition stance was echoed by General Ali Mohsen, who has thrown his weight behind the protesters.

Defecting general

The general, who sent troops to protect pro-democracy protesters in Sanaa, said the options before Saleh were now few, and criticised what he described as his "stubbornness", but said the armed forces were committed to protecting protesters.

General Mohsen also said he had no desire to take power, as fears grew of a major confrontation between rival military units in the capital Sanaa or elsewhere.

He said military rule in Arab countries was outdated and that the people would decide who would govern them in the framework of a modern, civilian state.

"Ali Mohsen as an individual has served for 55 years and has no desire for any power or position," he told Reuters.

"I have no more ambition left except to spend the remainder of my life in tranquility, peace and relaxation far from the problems of politics and the demands of the job."

Mohsen, commander of the northwest military zone and Saleh''s kinsman from the al-Ahmar clan, is the most senior military officer to back the protests, and his move on Monday triggered a stream of defections in the military and government.

Read the full story at http://bit.ly/fgMeG2 on Al Jazeera.  

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