Yemen's President Saleh offers to step down by year's end
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's concession comes closer to protesters' demands. But it also could complicate US counterterrorism efforts in the country, home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
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The embattled president has become increasingly isolated. Since the March 18 killing of at least 46 protesters by government loyalists, protesters have gained support from defecting military commanders and resigning ambassadors. Saleh's own half brother and longtime ally Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar led the military defections yesterday, announcing he was deploying troops to protect the protesters, The Christian Science Monitor reported.
“Yemen today is suffering from a comprehensive and dangerous crisis, and it is widespread,” Gen. Ahmar said. “It is because of what I feel about the emotions of officers and leaders in the armed forces, who are an integral part of the people, and protectors of the people, I declare, on their behalf, our peaceful support of the youth revolution and their demands and that we will fulfill our duties."
Mr. Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both condemned the killings last week. In a written statement, President Obama hinted that the US would stand behind the protesters' calls for replacing Saleh:
The United States stands for a set of universal rights, including the freedom of expression and assembly, as well as political change that meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people. It is more important than ever for all sides to participate in an open and transparent process that addresses the legitimate concerns of the Yemeni people, and provides a peaceful, orderly and democratic path to a stronger and more prosperous nation.
Secretary Clinton's statement also urged an end to force against the protesters and urged Saleh to address the protesters' demands in a democratic process. She did not seem to rule out the election of a new leader.
A solution to Yemen's problems will not be found through security measures. We support dialogue as the path to a peaceful solution to Yemen’s current political situation. This must include genuine participation by all sides in an open and transparent process that addresses the legitimate concerns of all Yemeni people, including their political and economic aspirations.
Whether Saleh's announcement that he would be willing to step down the move will quell the protests against the leader of 32 years is still unclear. Opposition leader Yassin Noman said Tuesday that Saleh would be allowed to remain in the country if he stepped down, according to Reuters.