Yemen's Saleh appears on TV, offers to share power

Thu Jul 7, 2011 5:06pm EDT
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By Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf

SANAA/ADEN (Reuters) - Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared on television on Thursday for the first time since an assassination attempt a month ago and said he was ready to share power within the constitution's framework.

Saleh, who is recovering in Riyadh after the June 3 bomb attack on his presidential compound, showed signs of severe burns to his face which was covered with white stubble instead of his trademark thick mustache.

He had heavily bandaged arms and hands in the appearance on Yemen TV in a pre-recorded interview.

"We are not against participation, we are for participation with all political powers, whether they are in opposition or ruling, but in the light of a program which the people agree upon," Saleh said.

Saleh, who flew to neighboring Saudi Arabia for treatment after the attack, has hung on to power despite international pressure and six months of protests against his 33-year rule.

In a note of defiance, Saleh said he would "confront a challenge with a challenge," a phrase he has often used in speeches.

Speculation about Saleh's health and the likelihood of his return to Yemen has been rife in the past five weeks. "I had eight successful operations and suffered from burns," he said, thanking Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah for hosting him.

"The speech was normal, it did not offer anything new. It's the same speech we're used to from Saleh," an activist said in Sanaa, which erupted in firework displays and celebratory gunfire after the speech. Six protesters were killed and a hundred were injured as a result, a medical source told Reuters.   Continued...