Yemen's Saleh willing to quit under conditions

 Western countries are alarmed that al-Qaeda militants entrenched in the Arabian Peninsula country could exploit any chaos arising from a messy transition of power if Saleh, a pivotal US and Saudi ally fighting for his political life, finally steps down after 32 years in office.

“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 supporters shown on state television as tens of thousands of his foes rallied elsewhere in the capital Sanaa.

Thousands of Saleh supporters in Sanaa were also out early on the streets for what they dubbed the “Friday of Tolerance”, with banners saying “No to chaos, yes to security and stability.” Some were carrying guns and traditional Yemeni daggers, others were wavings flags and playing patriotic songs.

“We are ready to leave power but only for safe hands,” Saleh said. “We are against firing a single bullet and when we give concessions this is to ensure there is no bloodshed. We will remain steadfast and challenge them with all power we have.”
Protesters encamped in their thousands outside Sanaa University for six weeks declared Friday a “Day of Departure” when they hoped to bring hundreds of thousands onto the streets in a further attempt to oust Saleh, a serial survivor of civil war, separatist movements and militant attacks.

Similar mass protests on March 18 left 52 people dead, apparently gunned down by plainclothes snipers. That bloodshed prompted a string of generals, diplomats and tribal leaders to abandon Saleh, severely weakening his position.

“The government cannot just shoot its way out of this crisis,” Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement. “Whether in uniform or in plainclothes, security forces must be immediately stopped from using live ammunition on unarmed protesters.”

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