Saleh 'won't be dragged into civil war'

Yemeni president blames clashes in capital on opposition fighters and says he is ready to sign a GCC-brokered exit deal.

    Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh says that he will not be dragged into a civil war, despite clashes between government forces and fighters loyal to the leader of a powerful tribal group who has sided with protesters  seeking to oust him from power.

    "What happened was a provocative act to drag us into civil war, but it is limited to the Ahmar sons," Saleh told reporters on Wednesday, referring to Sadiq al-Ahmar, the head of the Hashed tribal federation.

    "They bear responsibility for shedding the blood of innocent civilians. Until this second, they are attacking the interior ministry. But we don't want to widen the confrontation."

    Saleh said his country would not be a failed state, or a safe haven for Al Qaeda, and that he continued to coordinate with the US government in fighting against the group.

    "Yemen, I hope, will not be a failed state or another Somalia. The people are still keen for a peaceful transition of power," he told the Reuters news agency.

    He also said he was ready to sign a GCC-brokered transition out of power, and that once he left power he would stay in the country as part of the opposition.

    Saleh had been expected to sign the deal, already signed by both opposition leaders and members of the ruling party, on Sunday, but backed down - the third time he had done so.

    But Abdul Latif al-Zayani, the GCC's secretary-general, said on Wednesday he was willing to return to Sanaa, with the apparent hope that Saleh would sign the papers as soon as possible.

    The GCC proposal, which requires Saleh to step down from office within 30 days in return for immunity from prosecution, is backed by western powers.

    William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, on Wednesday called for Saleh to sign the deal "as soon as possible".

    "It's not really a question of taking orders from foreign powers, it is in the interest of his own country and his own interest now, for there to be a transition of power in the deal that has been mediated."

    Fighting in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, resumed on Wednesday after an overnight pause.

    Hakim al-Masmari, editor in chief of the Yemen Post, told Al Jazeera that at least 17 people had been injured on Wednesday.

    He said opposition forces had seized control of a number of ministries, including the interior ministry.

    Witnesses said on Wednesday that tribesmen loyal to al-Ahmar had also taken control of the offices of Saba, the state-owned news agency, and Yemenia, the national airline.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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