Yemen’s president plans to return home within days after treatment in Saudi Arabia for severe burns sustained in an attack on his palace two weeks ago, officials said Friday, as large crowds protested the announcement in the Yemeni capital.

In President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s absence, Yemen’s opposition parties have sought to persuade the ruling party to join them in a transitional leadership that would effectively shut out Saleh, who has resisted pressure at home and abroad to step down.

But a statement quoting a presidential official said Saleh would return “in days.” Officials in Saudi Arabia said Saleh was completing his treatment and has been able to carry out a few simple physical exercises.

The United States, which had relied on Saleh’s cooperation in battling the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has been pressing him to step down as a way to end the crisis.

Asked Friday about reports of his return, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “The issue isn’t about his return. The issue is about the transition that needs to take place.”

— Associated Press and staff reports