When Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down from power after 32 years of rule yesterday, in a deal that would grant him and his close family immunity from prosecution, it was originally reported that he was leaving his office "willingly," despite having the constitutional right to stay. Saleh aide Tariq Shami announced Saturday that "President Saleh welcomed the proposal and has accepted it."
But in an interview with BBC, Saleh still came across as defiant, calling the protests a coup and refusing to hand over power to the protesters.
"You call on me from the US and Europe to hand over power," he said. "Who shall I hand it over to? Those who are trying to make a coup? No. We will do it through ballot boxes and referendums. We'll invite international observers to monitor. Any coup is rejected because we are committed to the constitutional legitimacy and don't accept chaos."
Saleh also claimed that Al-Qaeda had infiltrated the protest camps, and appealed to Western nations, "Why is the West not looking at this destructive work and its dangerous implications for the future?"
Although Saleh agreed to the transition plan drawn up by Gulf Arab states, under which he will hand over power to his vice president after one month, it remains to be seen whether he will fully relinquish control, particularly in light of his current defiance. As the BBC pointed out, Saleh "has made - and broken - similar promises in the past."