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YEMEN: President's surprise return threatens to escalate fighting

September 23, 2011 |  8:38 am

President Ali Abdullah Saleh is back in Yemen after spending three months recuperating in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in a rocket attack, according to news reports.

His unexpected return Friday threatens to escalate fighting between forces loyal to the longtime ruler and his opponents, who have been demanding his ouster.

“The cannons are now speaking,” Abdullah Obal, an opposition leader, told the Associated Press. “Gunfire is doing all the talking.”

Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 33 years, has refused to yield power after months of protests inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. His departure in June had raised hopes that he would step down, and U.S. and Saudi officials were believed to be trying to persuade him not to return.

Saleh’s office on Friday called for a cease-fire and political dialogue after a week of escalating violence.


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-- Alexandra Zavis

Photo: Supporters of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh hold portraits of the leader and chant slogans during a rally celebrating his return to Sana, Yemen, on Friday. Credit Hani Mohammed / AP