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Yemen's Saleh Offers To Step Down By 2012

Yemeni armored personnel carriers are deployed outside the Central Bank in Sanaa on March 21.
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh says he will leave office only after organizing parliamentary elections by January 2012.

Presidential spokesman Ahmad al-Sufi said Saleh refused to hand over power without knowing who would succeed him.

A spokesman for the opposition, Muhammad al-Sabri, immediately refused his offer, calling it "just another political maneuver."

On March 21, Saleh told his army commanders the country could descend into civil war if he was forced to quit.

"Any divisions in the military institutions will have a bad impact on the country. Those who are trying to reach the throne, they should know that they cannot do so by force and coups," Saleh said.

"This will turn into civil war. It will be a bloody war. The people are armed."

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today that Washington was concerned about instability in Yemen, where tens of people have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters calling for an end to Saleh's 32-year rule.

Saleh has been a U.S. ally against radical Islamists.

compiled from agency reports