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Middle East

Yemen President offers to yield to 'capable hands'

Yemen's beleaguered President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to cede power yesterday but only to "capable hands" as tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets to demand his immediate removal.

In a rousing speech to his own supporters, Mr Saleh said power would not be given to "sick, resentful or corrupt hands" but the offer appeared to be the latest concession as he battles to retain his 32-year grip on power.

While he has made clear his willingness to hand over power to a trusted figure, Mr Saleh has yet to say who such a figure might be. Analysts believe the ambiguity of his most recent statements is engineered to leave all options open to him, including a war to try to retain power.

Anti-government protesters who rallied in another part of Sana'a yesterday dismissed Mr Saleh's latest offer and demanded his immediate resignation. Red cards were distributed to the tens of thousands of protesters on the streets in support of his "ejection" from the presidency. Demonstrators chanted, "Saleh, you have been given a red card".

Thousands of Mr Saleh's own supporters, some carrying guns and traditional Yemeni daggers, were also out on the streets countering the "day of departure" demonstrations with their own "Friday of Tolerance".