09/30/2011, 00.00
YEMEN
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Saleh: I will not give up power if opposition participates in the elections

The Yemeni president in the first interview after his return to Sanaa threatens civil war and refuses to sign the transition agreement reached with the Gulf countries. Clashes continue in the capital and in Taiz.
Sanaa (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president for 33 years, has officially stated that he will not give up power, as he had first appeared to have promised, if his opponents are allowed to participate in elections that will decide the succession. Saleh returned to the country last week after three months in Riyadh where he was treated in hospital after an assassination attempt (23/09/2011 Saleh returns to Yemen. Fighting continues in Sanaa).

Saleh has refused to sign a transition agreement prepared by the Gulf countries, whereby, in exchange for immunity, he would transfer his powers to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi. The president must face, as well as a strong democratic opposition on the streets, the hostility of powerful clans and the secession of several army units. "If we transfer power and rival forces are still there, it means that we have succumbed to a coup. If we transfer power, and they are in their positions, and they are still decision makers, this will be very dangerous. This will lead to civil war".

Journalists said Mr Saleh's face was marked by "deep scars" and he had trouble hearing. No close-up photographs were published with the articles.

Since January 2011, Anti-government protesters have been camped out in an area of the capital Sanaa - dubbed Change Square. Many have been killed during these months of protests. Saleh attributes the responsibility to the tribal forces and secessionist army: "They kill demonstrators from behind to blame the state," he said.

Today in Sanaa, the situation seems calm, even if - in spite of the declared truce - some rockets fell on northern parts of the capital yesterday. But at sunset a camp of Saleh opponents was attacked in Taiz. The United States and Saudi Arabia fear that the instability will allow the forces of Al Qaeda to gain ground in the south of Yemen.
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