“They are the ones who attack the military bases, the civilians and the protesters — the protesters that are moving around the city with the protection of Ali Mohsen and the Ahmars, using armed people. And they assassinate protesters from behind so they can blame the state,” Saleh said.
In a telephone interview, Mohsen denied the allegations, calling Saleh “a liar” who could not be trusted.
“His return to the country shows that he carries with him a revengeful soul,” Mohsen said. “Unfortunately, the president is not absorbing that the whole nation is incapable of living with him.”
Several members of the Ahmar family could not be reached for comment, but they have in the past denied Saleh’s allegations and have been equally critical of his rule. Hamid al-Ahmar was the first prominent figure to demand that Saleh step down.
Despite lashing out at his rivals, Saleh reiterated that he was still committed to the gulf Arab initiative. He denied that he was stalling in order to remain in power. He said that Yemen’s vice president, whom he authorized to negotiate with the Joint Meeting Parties, was waiting for the opposition to be more flexible.
“This is a misunderstanding. We are willing within the next hours and next days to sign it, if the JMP comes closer” to reaching an agreement, Saleh said. “We don’t want to prolong it. And we don’t want this crisis to continue.”
Still, Saleh warned that he was not prepared to leave Yemen without a stable transition of leadership. “What is important to [the JMP] is to remove the president from power and the country would then go through chaos,” he said.
He branded the opposition, especially al-Islah, Yemen’s largest opposition party, which includes members of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood, as Islamists who support al-Qaeda-linked militants. JMP officials have denied the allegations.
On several occasions, Saleh mentioned the U.S.-Yemeni counterterrorism alliance. “We are fighting the al-Qaeda organization in Abyan in coordination with the Americans and Saudis,” he said without elaborating.
Yemeni forces are engaged in fierce battles to retake territory lost to al-Qaeda-linked militants, who have taken over large swaths of the southern province of Abyan, including its capital, Zinjibar.
Saleh also warned the United States, which has denounced the violence and called for him to step down soon, to be patient.
“I am addressing the American public. I want to ask a question: Are you still keeping your commitment in continuing the operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda?” he asked. “If yes, that will be good. But what we see is that we are pressed by America and the international community to speed up the process of handing over power. And we know where power is going to go. It is going to al-Qaeda, which is directly and completely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Special correspondent Ali Almujahed contributed to this report.