Yemen's Saleh Vows to Return Soon, Blasts Foes

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Yemen's wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed Tuesday to return home "soon" and lashed out at his opponents, in answer to speculation he is poised to step down following 10 weeks of recovery abroad.

"See you soon in the capital Sanaa," he said, in an address from Riyadh to a meeting of his supporters in Sanaa that was broadcast on state television.

Saleh belittled the parliamentary opposition as figures of "narrow interests and lack of thinking," and accused them of "stealing" the slogans of young protesters who have been calling for his ouster in protests since late January.

The opposition are made up of the "leftovers of Marxists, the Taliban and the imamate," Yemen's ousted monarchist rulers, he said.

Parliament's Common Forum opposition is due to meet on Wednesday to elect an umbrella "national council" aimed at taking over power in the absence of the president.

An opposition leader, Soltan al-Atwani, accused Saleh of aiming to provoke civil war back home and criticized Saudi Arabia for allowing him to address the Yemeni people.

"His unspoken aim is to lead the country to civil war," by announcing his return despite "no longer forming part of the political game" in Yemen, Atwani told Agence France Presse.

Atwani, a leading member of the Common Forum, criticized Riyadh.

"How could Saudi Arabia have allowed Ali Abdullah Saleh to speak to the Yemeni people from its capital? It's unacceptable to allow him to issue threats from the Saudi kingdom."

Saleh, who appeared in good shape and combative mood, was addressing thousands of loyalist tribesmen at a meeting to "help resolve the crisis" in Yemen, according to state news agency Saba.

"The crisis was provoked by political forces whose aim is to take power," Saleh said.

The 69-year-old president was flown to Saudi Arabia in early June for treatment after being wounded in a bomb attack on his Sanaa presidential compound.

Despite his absence, Saleh has not transferred power to his Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, and his family members who lead strong army and security forces appear to be running Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country.

The United States has called on Saleh to sign a transition plan sponsored by Yemen's neighbors, the oil-rich Arab monarchies of the Gulf that would see him cede power within 30 days in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

The president has said the Gulf plan should be treated positively but has refrained from signing.

Parts of the army, key tribes and religious leaders have turned their back on Saleh over the past six months but protesters have been unable to unseat the veteran leader in power since 1978.

Saba quoted an organizer of the tribal meeting as saying: "It is a normal reaction to the dangers facing the country... because it will be the tribes who protect Yemen if the crisis persists."

The meeting aims to draw up an "honor code" and rules of conduct to "discourage lawless acts of violence which hurt the image of the tribe," the agency reported.

Opposition tribal leaders at the end of July announced the formation of a coalition to protect and defend the youth-led protest movement calling for the ouster of Saleh.

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