Defiant Saleh rejects Gulf mediation offer

Embattled president denounces "blatant interference" in Yemeni affairs in speech to supporters amid protests in Sanaa.

    Ali Abdullah Saleh: "We reject any coup against democracy, the constitution and our freedom" [GALLO/GETTY]

    Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's embattled president, has rejected a plan for his exit offered by Gulf states trying to broker an end to bloody protests, in a speech broadcast on state television.

    "We were born free, and we have free will, and they have to respect our wishes. We reject any coup against democracy, the constitution and our freedom," he told supporters on Friday.

    Saleh said: "Our power comes from the power of our great people, not from Qatar, not from anyone else. This is blatant interference in Yemeni affairs."

    Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, Qatar's prime minister, said on Thursday that members of the Gulf Cooperation Council "hope to reach a deal with the Yemeni president to step down."

    However, Abu Bakr al-Kurbi, Yemen's foreign minister, said Yemen's government is studying an initiative by Gulf Arab states to end a months-long confrontation with anti-regime protesters, in a statement published on Friday.

    Opposition groups had welcomed the Gulf countries' mediation offer.

    Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Yemenis have converged in the capital for rival demonstrations - with some demanding the president's ouster and others showing their support.

    Police and army units were deployed to prevent any friction between the two sides.

    More than 120 people have been killed since Yemen's protests calling for an end to Saleh's rule began on February 11, inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

    The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has invited Saleh and the opposition to a mediation session in Saudi Arabia. But Saleh's government described the proposal as unconstitutional.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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