Yemen’s Saleh offers handover to ‘safe hands’ | Pakistan Today

Yemen’s Saleh offers handover to ‘safe hands’

SANAA – President Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged to hand over power but only to “safe hands”, in a defiant speech to massed supporters on Friday, after talks with a top defector failed to defuse Yemen’s crisis.
“We will stand firm with you … steadfast in the face of all challenges,” Saleh, wearing a suit and sunglasses and confidently waving his right hand, told vast crowds in the Yemeni capital.
“We don’t need power. We need to hand it over to safe hands, and not to corrupt and hateful hands … You are the ones who will be handed power,” he said, triggering massive applause. Saleh, whose concessions and offers to stand down early have been snubbed by the opposition, renewed his invitation for youths at the forefront of the protests to join a dialogue.
“I am ready to talk to you and to form a political party for the youths,” said the strongman who has ruled Yemen for more than 30 years. In behind-the-scenes talks aimed at averting more bloodshed, Saleh and top dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, considered the second strongest man in Yemen, failed to strike a deal on Thursday night, the two sides said.
Ahmar, a regional army commander who has sided with and vowed to defend the protesters, is leading efforts to form a transitional council grouping all sides, according to sources close to the secret negotiations. With hundreds of thousands of rival demonstrators on Sanaa’s streets, soldiers fired warning shots to prevent loyalists whipped up by Saleh’s speech attacking anti-regime protesters on Friday, the Muslim day of prayers and rest.
There were no immediate reports of casualties at the demonstrations. The rallies came one week after a bloodbath in which 52 protesters were gunned down by Saleh loyalists, drawing widespread international condemnation and a spate of defections from within his ruling circle.
The anti-Saleh protesters were on Friday gathered at a square near Sanaa University where they have been camped since February 21, while regime loyalists crowded a nearby square in response to calls from the president. “The people want Ali Abdullah Saleh,” his supporters shouted.
The army and opposition activists set up separate checkpoints at entrances to the square near the university, searching people entering and leaving the epicentre of the revolt against Saleh’s three-decade rule.



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