Saleh ‘legitimate Until 2013′

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SANAA, Yemen, Aug. 17 (UPI) — Thousands of supporters of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh turned out to hear his address though opponents said political change was needed immediately.

The embattled Yemeni president told supporters that he would return “soon” from Saudi Arabia. Saleh was recently released from a hospital in Riyadh where he was recovering from injuries suffered during a June 3 attack on his presidential compound in Sanaa.

Saleh, in statements published by the official Saba news agency, said he wanted to “leave” as far back as 2006 “but our great Yemeni people, men and women, forced me to stay.”

He said his opponents were welcome to gain power through the ballot box. He stressed, however, that his ruling party was “legitimate until 2013.”

Hamid al-Ahmar, the owner of Yemen’s Sabafon cellular service network and who is accused of trying to assassinate the president, was quoted by al-Arabiya as saying transition was the only way out of the political crisis in Yemen.

“I am addressing our people, brothers and friends, when we talk about the transfer of power peacefully and smoothly, we have no objection to transfer it (power) to the vice president of the republic, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi,” he said.

The Arab broadcaster adds thousands of Saleh’s opponents have expressed frustration that he is still clinging to power.

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