Saleh: 'Elections As Soon As Possible'
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Monday he was committed to holding elections for a new president, the state news agency reported.
Saleh issued the statement from Saudi Arabia, where he has been for medical treatment since an assassination attempt in June, saying the vote should be held as soon as possible.
A political source told Reuters that Saleh had reached an agreement with the opposition to hold the elections within three months, with power transferred to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the meantime.
"We have committed to the previous initiatives including the Gulf initiative and the efforts and statement of the (United Nations) Security Council and to moving towards achieving ... as soon as possible arrangements to hold general and free and direct elections for the new president of the republic," Saleh said in the statement posted on the SABA news agency's website.
If true it would mark an end to Saleh's 33-year rule. But no specific date has been set and the report runs contrary to Saleh's recent promise he would return to Yemen when the report on his assassination is finalized - and hints he would be seeking revenge on his would-be assassins.
Earlier this year the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) brokered a plan to end Yemen's political deadlock by easing Saleh out of office, but he backed out of signing the deal three times at the last minute, leaving Yemen in political limbo.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula country of 23 million people has been in turmoil since January when protesters took to the streets demanding Saleh leave office.
Saleh issued his statement to mark the Eid Al Fitr holiday which ends the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and starts in Yemen on Tuesday, without saying when he would return.
On August 16, Saleh said he would "soon" go back to Yemen from Saudi Arabia where he is recovering from the assassination attempt at his palace, reiterating he would hand over power "via elections, not via coups".
"If Saleh leaves office before the end of the year, history will report it that he was ousted by the revolution," said Ali Abdul Jabbar, an analyst and the director of the Sanaa-based Dar Ashraf Research Center, said Monday.
However, many critics and opposition leaders believe this may be just the latest ploy by Saleh - an infamously tenacious political survivor - to hold onto power.