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Yemeni president won't make pledge to step down

SANA, Yemen — Yemen's defiant president addressed his troubled nation Sunday for the first time since returning to the country after an assassination attempt, making no promise to immediately step down but saying he is committed to a deal to end months of spiraling violence.

Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared in improved health after nearly four months of treatment in neighboring Saudi Arabia for severe burns and other injuries he suffered in a June 3 attack on his compound in Yemen's capital, Sana. Saleh abruptly returned on Friday and a week of renewed clashes with his opponents intensified, littering the streets of the capital with bodies.

"The crisis is big. You who are chasing power, let's all go to the ballot boxes," Saleh said, speaking to his opponents and suggesting elections rather than agreeing to step down.

Yemen's autocratic ruler of 33 years is under tremendous pressure from street protesters and neighboring Arab nations to transfer power.

Saleh has signaled an intention several times to sign a U.S.-backed deal to step aside in exchange for immunity from prosecution only to back out at the last minute.

In Sunday's televised address, he said he was committed to the deal, which was drafted by an alliance of gulf nations that includes powerful Saudi Arabia. He also hinted at the possibility of returning to the Saudi kingdom "to continue treatment and recuperating in the coming months."

Yemeni president won't make pledge to step down 09/25/11 [Last modified: Sunday, September 25, 2011 11:20pm]
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