x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Yemeni opposition reject unity proposal as Saleh says he is 'ready to leave'

Ali Abdullah Saleh says he is tired of power but wants to leave without chaosas opposition called for 'rage day' today in solidarity with crackdown in Aden that allegedly left nine dead and dozens injured.

SANA'A // The Yemeni opposition rejected a call yesterday to join a national unity government and said it supports those demanding that Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's president, step down.

Mohammed al Qubati, a spokesperson of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), an opposition coalition of six parties, said: "The situation is now different and the people in the streets have figured out their demands clearly, which is that the president should quit, and we are part of the people.

"The president has no option but either to be called a former or ousted president", Mr al Qubati said. "If he is wise enough, he should listen to them and leave peacefully".

The Al Jazeera network reported yesterday that Mr Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, would announce a government of national unity "within the next 24 hours".

"I am ready to offer a national unity government within hours and I am asking the opposition to name its representatives in the government", a government source quoted Mr Saleh as saying.

Mr Saleh has repeatedly made the offer in recent months. He met yesterday with a group of Yemeni clerics who are trying to mediate between the government and the opposition.

"You have to tell the right truth to both the ruler and the ruled. We have offered several concessions but with no response. Yemen will break into more than two [states]," Mr Saleh told the clerics at al Saleh mosque in Sana'a.

He also said, in the televised meeting, that he is ready to leave. "We are ready to leave but not with chaos ... in a peaceful way. I am fed up with power," he said.

His statement comes as thousands of additional protesters joined demonstrations yesterday in different parts of the country, demanding Mr Saleh's ouster. The protests, which have spread across the country in the past month, continued yesterday in Sana'a, Taiz, Mukalla, Ibb, Hodiedah, Marib, and Amran. More than 10,000 people in Taiz continued a two-week sit-in.

Security forces in Taiz yesterday refused to let a caravan of about 500 activists enter Aden to show solidarity with victims of the protest violence there, according to the organisers of the caravan. Aden police also refused to let some MPs, journalists and activists coming from Sana'a to enter the city.

At least 19 people have been killed in almost daily clashes since February 16, based on reports by medics and witnesses. Amnesty International puts the toll at 27.

The JMP has called on its supporters to stage a "rage day" today in solidarity with victims of the crackdown in Aden. It said in a statement that violence in Aden on Friday left nine dead and dozens injured. The ruling party and its allies condemned the call and held the JMP responsible for any "sedition and acts of destruction".

The interior ministry said yesterday on its website that three soldiers were killed and 10 others injured at the Aden protests.

Opposition to Mr Saleh grew under student- and activist-led protests galvanised by the successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. The activist movement attracted support from some of Yemen's main tribal groups as well as the opposition coalition.

Saleh's regime seems to be in a difficult position after several tribal chieftains from the the country's largest two tribes - the Hashid and the Bakeel - joined the escalating protests earlier this week. Several tribesmen from the Mareb and Sana'a provinces have pitched tents at the protest site in the capital, prompting Mr Saleh to vow on Sunday that he would defend his regime and accuse opponents of hijacking protests in a ploy to split the nation.



* With additional reporting by Reuters