Yemen's president addresses nation amid deadly violence

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh makes a televised address to his nation on Sunday.

Story highlights

  • Saleh says "criminals" are trying to steal Yemen's wealth
  • More than 200,000 anti-government protesters turn out Sunday in Sanaa
  • At least one protester is killed Sunday
  • Saleh calls for power transfer to take place through elections

Newly returned from three months out of the country, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh addressed his people Sunday, blaming "terrorists" for the deadly violence at anti-government protests.

The motive of the "criminal terrorists," he said, is "to seize power and to steal the wealth of the country and to undermine stability."

He said al Qaeda is supported "completely" by the elements causing violence.

Saleh also used his televised remarks to reiterate his call for a peaceful transition of power. He said his vice president has the authority to sign a proposal by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which would result in early presidential elections.

The United States has called on Yemen to follow the council's proposal.

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Saleh's televised remarks came as a large crowd of his supporters packed into Sanaa's Tahrir Square, celebrating the 49th anniversary of the Yemeni revolution.

Earlier, in nearby Change Square, more than 200,000 anti-government protesters turned out, leading to a new round of bloody clashes with Yemeni troops, medics said.

At least 30 people were injured, five of them badly, all from shootings, a medic said. Seven were government soldiers and 23 were anti-government demonstrators, the medic said.

One protester was killed, a medic said.

The march continued for about 30 minutes after protesters came under fire, then dispersed, witnesses said.

Some of the clashes taking place at opposition rallies are between forces loyal to Saleh and troops that have defected, supporting the opposition.

On Saturday, at least 38 people were killed. At least 26 protesters died and 52 were injured when security forces fired at them and rockets landed in Change Square, according to medical staffers there. Twelve dissident soldiers were killed and 112 others were injured when guards attacked the 1st Armored Division, an army unit that defected, a spokesman for the defectors said.

Saleh returned to Yemen on Friday after spending three months in Saudi Arabia, where he was treated for injuries suffered in an assassination attempt in June.

In his televised remarks Sunday, he sat behind a desk with flowers on it. He could only be seen from the shoulders up.

The United States, the United Nations and the European Union have called on Yemen to halt the violence, and called on both sides to establish a peaceful transfer of power.

In his address Sunday, Saleh said he remains committed to a peaceful transition.

On Saturday, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement expressing its "grave concern at the continued serious deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation in Yemen." It urged "all sides ... to reject violence" and "move forward urgently in an inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led process of political transition."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland issued a statement "expressing deep concern about the current situation in Yemen" and again urging Saleh "to initiate a full transfer of power without delay and arrange for presidential elections" by year's end.

"Too many Yemenis have lost their lives, and each day that passes without a peaceful and orderly transition is another day that the Yemeni people are forced to live in an unstable environment that threatens their security and livelihood," she said.