Yemen opposition accuses Saleh of 'manoeuvres'

Mass protests since the end of January

SANAA - The Yemeni opposition accused President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Wednesday of "manoeuvres" to gain time in an attempt to remain in power and insisted on his immediate departure.
This came as anti-regime protesters, camped at a square near the university in the capital Sanaa since February, vowed not to budge until Saleh quits despite cancelling plans for a Friday march towards the presidential palace.
"The president throws his different cards here and there every minute and every day and manoeuvres... in an attempt to remain in power," said Mohammed Qahtan the parliamentary opposition's spokesman.
Last week, Saleh reportedly offered to step down by the end of 2011, a proposal snubbed by the opposition. But his ruling party said Friday he should serve out his current term until the next scheduled presidential election in 2013.
"There's no choice for Saleh but to resign, and the opposition's stance is tied to that of the protesters," he said. "The opposition is heading towards escalating its civil peaceful movements until the regime falls."
A spokesman for the demonstrators, Adel al-Dal, said: "The current situation ... does not allow the protesters to march towards the presidential palace" which is surrounded by troops loyal to Saleh.
Troops initially blocked marchers from converging on the square by the campus from three separate departure points around the capital but they later relented and there was a noticeable rise in numbers, an AFP correspondent reported.
In Eb, southwest of the capital, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, witnesses said.
US ambassador Gerald Feierstein held talks with the assistant secretary general of the ruling General People's Congress, Sultan al-Burkani, on "ways to get out of the crisis", the Yemeni defence ministry newspaper's website said.
Feierstein insisted on the "need to solve the crisis by peaceful means and in a way that preserves the security, unity and democratic achievements of Yemen," the website added.
A key US ally in its "war on terror", Saleh has been faced with mass protests since the end of January, calling for an end to his 32-year rule. Fifty-two demonstrators were reported killed in a protest on March 18 alone.
Amnesty International puts the total death toll at 95.