Yemen’s Wounded President Appears on TV

Posted July 7th, 2011 at 9:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared on television Thursday for the first time since traveling to Saudi Arabia where he is being treated for injuries from an attack on his palace compound last month.

During a pre-recorded address, Mr. Saleh said he underwent more than eight “successful operations” at a hospital in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

His appearance had changed dramatically. His face was darkened from severe burns suffered in the bombing and bandages were visible on his hands. He wore a red Saudi headdress – unusual for the Yemeni leader who always dressed in western-style suits.

Mr. Saleh gave no indication during his brief remarks that he plans to step down despite almost daily protests by government opponents during the past five months and growing international pressure on him to resign.

He criticized his detractors, saying they had an incorrect understanding of democracy. But he added that he supports dialogue among Yemen's various political entities, and welcomes power sharing “within the constitution.”

Mr. Saleh gave no indication when he would return to Yemen. He turned over his presidential powers to a deputy before departing Sana'a weeks ago.

After the speech, supporters throughout Yemen celebrated with fireworks and bursts of gunfire. A number of injuries were reported.

Thousands of Yemenis have rallied across the country for months, demanding Mr. Saleh's ouster. A series of defections by security forces also have taken place since anti-government protests began in February.

Mr. Saleh has resisted international efforts and initiatives by Gulf neighbors to end the political stalemate and set a timetable for him to cede power.

Meanwhile, unrest continues throughout the country. Officials say two attacks in southern Yemen left at least 12 soldiers dead.

Suspected al-Qaida militants fired on a vehicle near the city of Lawdar late Wednesday, killing 10 government troops. Authorities say two soldiers were killed in a separate incident in the city of Taiz, where tribesmen have been fighting forces loyal to Mr. Saleh. Several civilians were wounded there.

Yemeni state news reports said Thursday that military forces killed a regional al-Qaida leader and several associates in clashes near the southern city of Zinjibar.