SANAA, (AFP) – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, faced with more than eight months of street protests demanding his ouster, said Saturday he is ready to step down within days but would not hand over to his foes.
“I don’t want power and I will give it up in the coming days,” the veteran leader said in a televised speech during which he launched a tirade against his opponents.
Saleh said it was “impossible to let them destroy the country,” whereas there were “sincere men, whether they be military or civilian” who were capable of governing Yemen.
The president, who has been in power for 33 years, has refused to hand over power to the opposition under the terms of a transition plan drawn up by Yemen’s oil-rich Arab neighbours in the Gulf.
In an early reaction, Yemen’s new Nobel Peace Prize winner and leading woman activist Tawakkul Karman said Saleh’s latest apparent offer could not be trusted and that protests would continue.
“We don’t believe this man and if he wants to step down, okay, that belongs to him,” she told Al-Jazeera television.
“He has to hand over the power; he has to give the power that he has stolen to the revolution people, the revolution rule. We don’t believe him,” Karman said. “We are continuing our peaceful revolution.”