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Yemen's president to travel to U.S.

From Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
updated 5:35 PM EST, Sat December 24, 2011
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks in Sanaa on December 24, 2011.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks in Sanaa on December 24, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is planning a trip to the United States
  • He is not seeking treatment for injuries sustained in a June attack, a spokesman says
  • Last month, Saleh said he would come to New York for medical treatment
  • He recently signed an agreement to end his 33-year rule

(CNN) -- Yemen's embattled president is planning a trip to the United States, a party spokesman said Saturday, even as his country is embroiled in a factional conflict amid protesters' calls for democracy that continue to draw a heavy-handed government response and persistent bloodshed.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has agreed to step down from power after months of national unrest, is not making the trip to seek treatment for injuries sustained from an assault against his presidential palace, the spokesman said. He was wounded in June in a bomb attack, forcing him to seek treatment in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The president wants to "get away from attention, cameras, and allow the unity government to prepare properly for elections," the spokesman added.

Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Saleh had told him he would come to New York for medical treatment after signing an agreement to end his 33-year rule.

A senior state department official also said the president is seeking medical treatment, though no visa has yet been issued.

It is unclear when Saleh plans to leave for the United States.

Yemen marchers attacked in Sanaa

Meanwhile, at least 10 people were killed Saturday when security forces in Yemen's capital assaulted thousands of demonstrators with gunfire, water cannons, and tear gas, according to eyewitnesses and activists.

"Everyone here is screaming, blood and tear gas (are) everywhere," said protester Murad Merali at the scene. "Saleh's forces are shooting with snipers. They are blocking streets and attacking women, tearing their hijabs. It's a war zone out here, smoke is everywhere. Soldiers also have batons."

CNN.com: A 'war zone' emerges during Yemen protest

CNN cannot independently confirm Merali's account. A senior official in the vice president's office told CNN that security forces were told to evacuate the area of the protests and not harm the marchers in any way.

A government investigation into the apparent clashes has been ordered.

The country has been wracked with protests throughout the year, with demonstrators and rival factions demanding the departure of Saleh and calling for elections.

Opposition to Saleh's rule has since led to a presidential power-transfer agreement. Under the November deal, brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, the president agreed to transfer power into the hands of a coalition government.

Saleh, while unpopular with many Yemenis, has been an ally of the United States in the war against terrorists, particularly al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

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