Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Middle East round-up: Yemen president warns country on brink of civil war

Yemen's increasingly isolated president warned that his country stood on the brink of civil war as he made his biggest concession yet by promising step down at the end of the year.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been president for 32 years, attempt to both assuage and frighten the movement demanding his resignation as he made a last-ditch effort to avert his immediate downfall.

With his power base disintegrating after nearly two months of protests, Mr Saleh, a key US ally against the growing al Qaeda presence in Yemen, promised to step aside after legislative elections in January that, he said, would institute a parliamentary system of government.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary voiced his concern over the unrest, saying it could divert attention from the country's fight against al Qaeda. His comments came amid reports 13 militants were killed in clashes with Yemeni soldiers.

Like Mr Saleh, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's former president, sacked his cabinet and offered to stand down within months before bowing to the inevitable and departing in ignominy.

Opposition leaders, who have learned from experience that Mr Saleh's offers to stand down cannot always be taken at face value, immediately rejected the offer. (read more)