Yemen's ruler claims he'd quit if he could
Published 26/03/2011 | 05:00
Yemen's long-time ruler told tens of thousands of supporters yesterday he is ready to step down but cannot because he does not trust his opposition, whom he called "drug dealers".
Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke in a rare appearance outside his presidential palace in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
Across town, an even larger number converged on a square calling for his removal and waving red cards emblazoned with the word "leave".
The president, who has held power for more than three decades, has repeatedly sought to appease the protesters, to no avail.
"We don't want power but we need to hand it over to trustful hands, not to sick, hateful, corrupt, collaborator hands," Mr Saleh said, calling the opposition a small minority of drug dealers, rebels and illegal money traders.
As he spoke, the president's forces tried to prevent more anti-government demonstrators from entering Sanaa.
Protesters also stepped up security around the central square where they have held demonstrations for weeks.
Pro-demonstrator forces patrolled the square clutching assault rifles and searching people trying to enter.