President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Friday he was ready to cede power to stop more bloodshed in Yemen, but only to what he called “safe hands” as tens of thousands rallied against him in “Day of Departure” protests.
Talks were under way on two tracks to work out the details of a deal on a peaceful transition of power, Yemeni political sources said.
“We don’t want power, but we need to hand power over to safe hands, not to sick, resentful or corrupt hands,” Saleh said in a rousing speech to tens of thousands of supporters in Sana’a.
But across the capital, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters held their own “Day of Departure” rally to demand the departure of the president. Shooting broke out when soldiers loyal to a top Yemeni general who has been protecting the protesters fired in the air to prevent a crowd of Saleh loyalists approaching the area, witnesses said.
A soldier guarding the protest was later wounded when gunmen fired from a nearby building, witnesses said.
Yemeni political sources said talks to resolve the crisis have been ongoing and included a meeting between the president and Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar in which they discussed the fate of both men.
Simultaneously, broader political talks were under way on a political transition in Yemen. A source close to Mohsen said he and Saleh had discussed a deal in which both men would leave the country, taking their sons and relatives with them.
“The deal is not signed yet. But we believe that Saleh backed out,” the source told Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal had reported the sides were close to a deal in which the two men would resign, bringing in a civilian transitional government. A Saleh spokesman denied that report but said Saleh had held a meeting over the past 48 hours with the general. Reuters