SANA, Yemen — Yemen's embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, vowed Wednesday he would not step down or allow his nation to become a "failed state" even as urban combat between government troops and armed tribesmen engulfed parts of the capital.
Both sides raised the specter of civil war as the three-day death toll rose to at least 63. The latest violence comes just days after a failed Arab mediation effort to end the three-month uprising and ease Saleh from power.
Saleh's statement — read by spokesman Ahmed al-Soufi in a meeting with tribal allies — ruled out a voluntary departure and blasted U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate his exit after 32 years of authoritarian rule.
"I will not leave power and I will not leave Yemen," the statement said. "I don't take orders from outside."
Saleh also threatened that his ouster could turn Yemen into a haven for al-Qaida — directly touching on U.S. fears that chaos in Yemen could open room for more terrorist footholds. The Yemeni branch of al-Qaida is linked to the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing of an airliner over Detroit and explosives intercepted last year in Dubai and Britain.
President Barack Obama has called on Saleh to transfer power — a change from an administration that once considered the Yemeni ruler a necessary ally against terrorism.
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called for an immediate end to the fighting, expressing concern that clashes "might further destabilize the situation," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said in New York.
TOLL IN SYRIA: More than 25 children, some of them tortured, are among the victims of the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on an uprising that has killed more than 1,000 people over the past two months, an opposition group says. The Local Coordination Committees in Syria, which helps organize the protests against President Bashar Assad, identifies the children and the circumstances of their death. Syria has blocked media access in the country, making it impossible to verify the reports independently. Some of the children died "under severe torture," the group's statement says noting the children range in age from 5 and 17.
BAHRAIN SENTENCES: A special Bahrain security court sentenced four demonstrators to a year in jail for involvement in antigovernment protests, a human rights group said Wednesday. Three of the protesters were convicted a day earlier on charges that included taking part in illegal protests, according to the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. It said the fourth was found guilty of possessing pamphlets calling for the overthrow of the country's ruling system. The reported convictions are part of a series of closed-door trials in a special court set up in March during a crackdown on the Shiite-led protests.