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Yemeni Leader Makes First Speech Since Returning, Calls For Elections


His hands and head covered to hide his injuries, President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks during a meeting with players of the national soccer team in Sanaa on September 25.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has addressed his nation on television for the first time since returning from Saudi Arabia.

Saleh's country has been engulfed by protests, with many on the streets calling for Saleh to leave office.

In his speech on September 25, Saleh said he was committed to a Gulf initiative that provides for a transfer of power to his deputy before elections.

"Dear citizens, all this [unrest] is [people] running for power," he said. "We have spoken of a peaceful transition of power through the ballot box over and over again.

"And we reiterate today that we are committed to the Gulf initiative in its form and [committed] to signing it through the Vice President Abid Rabbu Mansur Hadi who has been given authority by an active presidential decree that allows him to enter dialogue, sign the initiative, and agree the procedures to implement it so we can get the country out of this dangerous crisis."

Saleh said he wanted "complete elections: presidential, parliamentary, and local."

His speech came at the end of one of the most violent weeks in Yemen since protests started in January.

More than 100 people were killed in protests in just the last seven days.

Saleh was in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after an assassination attempt in June, returning only on September 23.

Saleh's head was covered and a flower arrangement on his desk hid his hands to disguise the injuries he received in the June bombing.

Meanwhile, reports cite antigovernment tribesmen in Yemen as saying they stormed an army base north of the capital, Sanaa, today, killing its commander and capturing 16 soldiers.

An opposition website, Mareb Press, reported that General Ahmed Abdullah al-Keleibi was killed in the clashes between the tribesmen and soldiers stationed at the Republican Guard base.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

The elite Republican Guard, which has been blamed by the opposition for attacks on antigovernment protesters, is under the command of President Abdullah Ali Saleh's son, Ahmed.

Meanwhile, thousands of Yemenis staged demonstrations against Saleh.

As they marked the anniversary of the September 26 revolution, when Yemen was proclaimed a republic, protesters marched across Sanaa chanting, "Peaceful, Peaceful."

compiled from agency reports