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Yemen president vows to quit in 2013

A day after Mubarak vowed to quit politics, President Ali Abdullah Saleh says he won't run again.

Yemen protest
Yemenis attend a protest calling President Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit after being in power since 1978, on Jan. 27, 2011 in Sanaa. Saleh announced Wednesday that he would not stand for office in 2013. AFP PHOTO/GAMAL NOMAN (Gamal Noman/Getty Images)

A day after Hosni Mubarak of Egypt vowed to quit politics amid mass protests, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen has said that he will not seek to extend his presidency at elections in 2013.

Yemen, a key U.S. ally against Al Qaeda, is one of several Arab nations weathering unprecedented popular protests in recent days driven by disaffection with oppressive regimes and poor living conditions.

Mubarak said Tuesday he would quit the presidency at the end of his term in September, a decision reportedly urged by President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his government Tuesday in the wake of street protests and asked an ex-prime minister to form a new cabinet, ordering him to launch immediate political reforms.

And Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled that country on Jan. 14 after mass demonstrations against perceived misrule. International arrest warrants have been issued for Ben Ali and his family and associates, accused of taking money and weapons from the country and inciting violence.

The Tunisia protests emboldened people across North Africa and the Middle East to stage demonstrations, many with the use of the social network Facebook, as well as Twitter.

Saleh, who has been in power for three decades, said that he would freeze constitutional changes that would allow him to be president for life, according to Agence France-Presse

And he pledged that he would not pass on power to his son, the BBC reported.

Many of those protesting against their governments in the region reject the notion of political power being passed on to the children of various Arab leaders — sons usually. Gamal Mubarak was being seen as heir apparent to Mubarak in Egypt, but reportedly fled the country over the weekend. There were unconfirmed sightings of Gamal in London.

Saleh's announcement came ahead of a rally in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on Thursday which, echoing protests in Tunisia and Egypt, has been dubbed a "day of rage."

Saleh came to power as president of North Yemen in 1978. Speaking during an emergency session of the country's parliament and the consultative council on Tuesday, he laid out his plans to move aside.

"No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock," Saleh said.

He spoke ahead of the planned protests, organized by civil society groups and opposition leaders.

Yemen suffers from high population growth, unemployment running at 40 percent, rising food prices and acute levels of malnutrition.

Mubarak appeared on state television Monday to announce the concession after mass protests against his rule in Cairo and other major cities. But he refused to bow to demands by the hundreds of thousands of protesters that he quit immediately.

"My first responsibility is to restore the stability of the country and to ensure a peaceful transition of power," Mubarak said. He went on: "I have no intent to stand for those elections because I have spent enough time serving Egypt."

Mubarak was finally forced to act after a direct intervention by Obama, who sent a special envoy, Frank Wisner, to tell the Egyptian leader that he had lost support and that it was "critical" he oversee a transition to free and fair elections in September.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/middle-east/110202/yemen-president-quit-election-egypt