Reports: Yemen's President Offers To Step Down By Year's End

"Yemen's embattled, U.S.-backed president said Tuesday that a military coup would lead to civil war and pledged to step down by year's end," The Associated Press reports from Sanaa. But President Ali Abdullah Saleh also said he would not hand power to army commanders who have joined the opposition.

"Any dissent within the military institution will negatively affect the whole nation," Saleh said in a nationally televised address. "The nation is far greater than the ambition of individuals who want to seize power."

Reuters has a slightly different take on when Saleh will step down. It reports that he plans to do that "by January 2012," after parliamentary elections.

Saleh has previously said he would not seek re-election in 2013. Whether he can hold on to power even until the end of this year, however, remains uncertain.

As we reported Monday, weeks of protests have severely eroded support for Saleh. Several army generals have thrown their support to the protesters, as have some of the government's diplomats.

And as as NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has reported, the unrest in Yemen worries counterterrorism experts. That's because "al-Qaida's arm in Yemen has been one of the terrorist group's most active affiliates. [And] it is home to radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the English speaking-imam who has been accused of inspiring and directing young jihadists to attack the West."

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. While in Moscow today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters about the U.S. concern regarding the turmoil in Yemen. Al-Qaida's "franchise" in Yemen, he said, is "perhaps the most dangerous" of all that terrorist group's affiliates.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates



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