SANAA, YEMEN – Facing intensifying pressure to leave office, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told the al-Arabiya television network on Saturday that he was prepared to step down “with respect,” even within hours.
But Saleh’s intentions remained unclear, with Yemen’s official news agency Saba reporting, “A presidential source denied on Saturday what [has] been reported by some media outlets that President Ali Abdullah Saleh will step down.”
Negotiations are underway for his possible exit, but Saleh and his opponents have been unable to agree on a timeline or conditions for his departure. Saleh has offered numerous concessions and agreed to step down by the end of the year.
But opposition groups have demanded that he resign immediately.
On Saturday, Saleh’s advisers met with the U.S. ambassador, Gerald Feierstein, as well as tribal and military leaders who have defected to the opposition.
“These demands are impossible to accept,” presidential spokesman Ahmed al-Sufi told the Associated Press, referring to the opposition’s demands. “What is clear is that the president wants an honorable transfer of power according to the constitution and through elections.”
Saleh has offered to hold presidential elections at the end of this year rather than in 2013, when they had been planned.
Saleh, who has ruled this impoverished Middle Eastern nation for 32 years, has struggled to contain a populist uprising that gathered momentum after the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last month.