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Embattled Yemeni President Goes Abroad For Medical Treatment

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh
Antigovernment protesters are gathering in Sanaa's Tagheer Square to celebrate the departure of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who left for Saudi Arabia to be treated for wounds received in a June 3 rocket attack on the presidential palace.

Saleh has ruled the country for over 30 years but faces mouting public protests and increasing hostility from tribal militias.

The unrest in Yemen, where about 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day -- making it one of the poorest nations in the Arab world -- was sparked by recent antigovernment uprisings in the region.

Some remote provinces have already broken free of Saleh's control.

"It's a disaster, and I'm happy that he's leaving because he made a massacre in Taiz," one Yemini man told Reuters in Tagheer Sqare. "He is a murderer. This is his punishment. The country will be better now he has left."

Gulf nations tried to broker a peaceful transfer of power between Saleh and the opposition, but the president has repeatedly refused to sign the deal at the last minute.

Tribal militias have also been active in the country in recent weeks. Many people have been killed in the violence. Analysts warn that Saleh's June 4 departure could further undermine stability in the country.

A Saudi-brokered ceasefire imposed on June 4 remains tentatively in place.

The White House has said that President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism aide spoke with Yemen's vice president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, on June 4.

compiled from agency reports