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YEMEN: President Saleh tries again to appease protesters

March 10, 2011 |  6:54 am

Opposition leaders in Yemen rejected a third attempt by embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh to appease their demands Thursday.  

Speaking at a large pro-government rally, Saleh proposed new concessions but defied their key demand when said he would transfer executive powers to a newly elected parliamentary government “by the end of this year or early next year,” but remain president until scheduled elections in 2013.

The president’s plan offered to form a national committee to draft a new constitution that would transfer power from the president to an elected parliament in a year’s time. A referendum to approve the new constitution would be held at the end of this year, according to a statement by the president’s ruling party, the General People’s Congress.

The plan also proposed to implement new electoral laws and establish a new independent Supreme Committee for Elections and Referendum.

“The president’s plan does not address the problems of the country, or the demands of the people on the street,” said Yassin Said Noman, president of Yemen’s opposition coalition, the Joint Meetings Party. “His plan offered a way for him get out of this crisis himself, but not to solve the crisis in the country.”

In an attempt to quell growing public anger since early February, Saleh has announced that he will not run for president again in 2013 or support the succession of his son. He has also promised sweeping economic, political and electoral reforms. Last week, the president offered to form a “unity government” that would allow key opposition leaders to rule alongside the ruling party.

All the president’s conciliatory initiatives have been rejected by both opposition leaders and by growing crowds of anti-Saleh demonstrators across Yemen’s cities and provinces calling for Saleh’s immediate departure.

Late Tuesday, two protesters were killed when the army fired live ammunition and tear gas into a demonstration in front of Sana University, according to medics on the scene. More than a hundred demonstrators were also injured Tuesday by tear gas and bullets.

More than 30 protesters have been killed in Yemen since protests began early last month, according to Amnesty International.

-- Haley Sweetland Edwards in Sana, Yemen