Yemen’s president has told parliament he will not seek another term in office or hand power to his son – an apparent reaction to protests in his own country inspired by Tunisia’s revolt and the turmoil in Egypt.
The US-allied Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for nearly 32 years, spoke to lawmakers in both houses of parliament.
Mr Saleh said: “I won’t seek to extend my presidency for another term or have my son inherit it.”
Activists and opposition supporters have staged several protests in Sanaa, calling for Mr Saleh’s removal and attacking reports that he planned to install his son in power.
The opposition has called for mass anti-Saleh rallies to be held in all provinces on Thursday.
Mr Saleh had earlier tried to defuse simmering tensions in Yemen by raising salaries for the army and by denying opponents’ claims he planned to install his son as his successor.
But that has not stopped critics from taking to the streets of the capital, Sanaa. In January, tens of thousands gathered in days of protests calling for Mr Saleh to step down – a red line that few dissenters had previously dared to cross here.
His current term in office expires in 2013 but proposed amendments to the constitution could have let him remain in power for two additional terms of 10 years.
In parliament, Mr Saleh called on the opposition to meet for dialogue on political reforms and their demands.
Opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri rejected the call for dialogue and expressed doubts about Mr Saleh’s pledge not to seek re-election. Mr al-Sabri said Mr Saleh made a similar promise in 2006, but failed to fulfill it, ran again and was re-elected..