Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's veteran president, has promised not to seek re-election in 2013, becoming the latest Arab leader to try to offer concessions before protests spread out of control.
Mr Saleh, an important if mercurial US ally who has held presidential office since 1978, made his announcement after Yemen's opposition called on its supporters to stage a "day of rage" in major cities today. "I won't seek to extend my presidency for another term or have my son inherit it," he told an emergency session of parliament. "No to hereditary rule and no to life presidency."
Mr Saleh's decision shows the spreading fear of contagion in the region inspired by popular revolts first in Tunisia and now Egypt. It also follows Tuesday's decision by King Abdullah II of Jordan to sack his government and appoint a new prime minister in an attempt to assuage protests led by opposition parties.
There have been protests across North Africa and into the Gulf. Even in Saudi Arabia, human rights groups say they have been encouraged by events to present once unthinkable demands for political rights and democracy. In recent days thousands of Yemenis have poured on to the streets, including in the capital Sana'a, amid growing discontent over unemployment, which is 40pc and rising prices.
Clearly unnerved by the pace of developments in the region, Mr Saleh made it clear he was abandoning a suspected plan to create a family dynasty by handing over power to his son Ahmed. The concession marks a major reversal of policy. Last month, he introduced a constitutional amendment to parliament that would have effectively made him president for life. (© Daily Telegraph, London)