Middle East
Yemeni leader vows to return 'home soon'
Ali Abdullah Saleh says he will return soon during broadcast from Saudi Arabia where he is recovering from attack.
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2011 16:58
Steet protests calling for the ousting of President Ali Abdullah Saleh have continued for months in Yemen [Reuters]

Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president recovering in Saudi Arabia from wounds sustained in an attack on his palace in June, has vowed to return home soon.

Saleh, who appeared in good shape compared with previous appearances, spoke on Tuesday in a televised address.

The president renewed his calls for early presidential elections, telling supporters: "See you soon in the capital Sanaa."

He also blasted the opposition, saying they were made up of the "leftovers of Marxists, the Taliban and the imamate," Yemen's ousted monarchist rulers.

Parliament's Common Forum opposition is due to meet on Wednesday to elect an umbrella "national council" aimed at taking over power in the absence of the president.

The United States and Saleh's Saudi hosts have pressured him to remain in Saudi Arabia, fearing his return to Yemen could spark a civil war.

Saleh said he was willing to transfer power to his vice-president if the opposition pulls armed tribal fighters from the streets and the opposition ends its street rallies, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Fierce clashes

Saleh's address came as fierce clashes overnight between tribesmen and Yemen troops left 23 tribesmen dead, according to a tribal source.

"Twenty-three of our fighters were killed in fierce overnight clashes with the Republican Guard," said the source from the Bakil tribe, adding that the worst fighting was concentrated in the area of Sheheb Arhab.

The trouble began last week after the elite Republican Guard, which is led by Saleh's son, Ahmed, installed a checkpoint that allegedly harassed residents of the area that is considered the northeastern gate to Sanaa.

The source said troops chased tribesmen to their villages after few skirmishes, adding that the Republican Guard and the army had recently deployed reinforcements in Arhab, which lies 40km outside Sanaa.

Tribal sources claimed that the army was planning a war against the Bakil tribe, Yemen's largest confederation of smaller tribes.

But officials have claimed that gunmen belonging to the opposition were plotting to take control of a nearby army base and the Sanaa airport.

Dozens were allegedly killed in clashes that erupted in late July between armed tribesmen and the army at the nearby Samaa camp, which the defence ministry claimed gunmen wanted to control in order to seize the international airport.

Deputy information minister Abdo al-Janadi accused Mansur al-Hanaq, a former member of the influential opposition Islamist Al-Islah (Reform) party, of being behind the attack.

A military official said "these armed criminal elements aimed to control the Samaa camp in an attempt to take over Sanaa International airport as part of their plan to overthrow the constitutional legitimacy and seize power by force," according to defence ministry website 26sep.net.

The Republican Guard has been fighting tribes in various regions of Yemen as several of the heavily armed tribesmen sided with protesters demanding the ousting of Saleh since January. 

Saleh, in power since 1978, has come under intense pressure from street protesters demanding his resignation and has remained in Saudi Arabia for nearly two months after his palace was attacked.

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