Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit in 2013

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh tells parliament he will step down in 2013

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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said he will not seek to extend his presidency when his current term expires in 2013.

Mr Saleh, who has been in power for three decades, also pledged that he would not pass on power to his son.

He spoke to parliament ahead of a rally in the capital on Thursday which, echoing protests in Tunisia and Egypt, has been dubbed a "day of rage".

Mr Saleh came to power as president of North Yemen in 1978.

When the country was united with South Yemen in 1990 he became president of the new republic.

Concessions

Speaking during an emergency session of the country's parliament and the consultative council on Wednesday, Mr Saleh laid out his plans to move aside.

"No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock," he said.

"I present these concessions in the interests of the country. The interests of the country come before our personal interests."

He also called on the opposition to "freeze all planned protests, rallies and sit-ins".

Analysis

President Saleh's statement seems to be a big concession, but opposition leaders say this is not enough. They have been calling for political reform and fair and transparent elections for five years.

President Saleh's plans not to extend his presidency are not enough for young Yemenis. They still want him to leave office. They say 30 years is more than enough.

Analysts say the Yemeni president may be attempting to defuse tensions ahead of a day of protests on Thursday.

He has told the Yemeni people to be prepared to protect themselves from possible chaos or looting. He wants them to stop and think of the consequences of the instability that protests could cause.

But many young Yemenis say they will take to the streets on Thursday, despite the ruling party's efforts to dissuade them.

He spoke ahead of the planned protests, organised by civil society groups and opposition leaders in a country which suffers from high population growth, 40% unemployment, rising food prices and acute levels of malnutrition.

Some 40% of the population lives on less than $2 (£1.25) a day and parts of the country have become a haven for al-Qaeda militants.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in January during days of protests urging Mr Saleh to step down.

After the revolt in Tunisia, which forced the country's president to flee into exile, Mr Saleh made a series of concessions - halving income tax and ordering his government to control prices. He has also pledged to raise the salaries of civil servants and military personnel by around $47 (£29) a month.

Mr Saleh's statement was welcomed by the country's largest opposition party but it said the planned rally would not be called off.

"We consider this initiative positive and we await the next concrete steps. As for our plan for a rally tomorrow, the plan stands and it will be organised and orderly," Mohammed al-Saadi, under-secretary of the Islamist Islah party said, according to Reuters.

"This is a peaceful struggle through which the people can make their voices heard and express their aspirations," he added.

In January, Mr Saleh had proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow him to stand for re-election in the next presidential ballot in two years' time but, analysts say, he appears to have changed his mind after seeing the impact of public demonstrations across the region.

He made a similar promise to stand down before the 2006 presidential election, but eventually reversed this position.

Middle East social indicators

Country pop. (m) median age jobless (%) below poverty line (%) internet users (m)

Algeria

34.5

27.1

9.9

23

4.7

Egypt

80.5

24

9.6

20

20

Jordan

6.4

21.8

13.4

14.2

1.6

Lebanon

4.09

29.4

na

28

1

Libya

6.4

24.2

30

33

0.35

Morocco

31.6

26.5

9.8

15

13.2

Saudi Arabia

25.7

24.9

10.8

na

9.6

Syria

22.1

21.5

8.3

11.9

4.4

Tunisia

10.5

29.7

14

3.8

3.5

W Bank & Gaza

2.5

20.9

16.5

46

1.3

Yemen

23.4

17.89

35

45.2

2.2

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