Leader offers to go if Yemen's in 'safe hands'

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's longtime rule is telling supporters he's ready to step down, but only if he can leave the country in what he considers "safe hands."

President Ali Abdullah Saleh (AH'-lee ahb-DUH'-luh sah-LEH') made the remarks in a rare appearance before a huge, cheering crowd outside his presidential palace in the capital.

Across town, an even larger crowd of protesters converged on a square in front of Sanaa university, chanting slogans calling for the president's ouster. They carried the coffins of two protesters wounded last week when government security forces opened fire on a demonstration. The two recently died of their wounds. More than 40 were killed in the incident.

Thousands also marched in anti-government protests today in the southern port city of Aden.

Last Friday's bloodshed has eroded Saleh's support, with military commanders, ruling party member and others defecting to the opposition. Saleh has rejected appeals to step down, but appeared to soften his stance today. He says he wants to leave "properly," and hand power to "trustful hands," not "hateful, corrupt" hands.

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Sound of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh (AH'-lee ahb-DUH'-luh sah-LEH')

This is sound of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh addressing tens of thousands of his supporters gathered for a pro-government rally in the Yemeni capital. ((Ali Abdullah Saleh is pronounced AH'-lee ahb-DUH'-luh sah-LEH'.)) COURTESY: Yemen Television ((mandatory on-air credit))

<<CUT …190 (03/25/11)>> 00:06 "''

Sound of people cheering as they take part in a march

This is sound of people cheering as they take part in a march in support of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the city of Sanaa.((Ali Abdullah Saleh is pronounced AH'-lee ahb-DUH'-luh sah-LEH'.)) COURTESY: Yemen Television ((mandatory on-air credit))

<<GRAPHICSBANK 1104318 (03/22/11)>> 2000x1500

Anti-government protestors shout slogans and wave their national flag during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Sanaa, Yemen, on national flag texture, lettering YEMEN UNREST, finished graphic

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Ali Abdullah Saleh headshot, as Yemen President, split screen with national flag texture, lower third with name and position,partial graphic

<<APPHOTO XMM125 (03/25/11)>>

: Anti-government protestors demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, gather by the bodies of Mohammed Ahmed, bottom and Mujahed Abdul Haq, who were killed last Friday in clashes with Yemeni security forces, during their funeral procession in Sanaa,Yemen, Friday, March 25, 2011. Facing growing calls for his resignation, Yemen's longtime ruler told tens of thousands of supporters Friday that he's ready to leave power but he doesn't trust his opposition, whom he called "drug dealers. Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke in a rare appearance before a cheering crowd outside his presidential palace in the Yemeni capital Friday on a day of dueling demonstrations.

<<APPHOTO XMM116 (03/25/11)>>

: An anti-government protestor, center, shouts slogans as others raise red cards that reads in Arabic, " Leave", during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa,Yemen, Friday, March 25, 2011. Facing growing calls for his resignation, Yemen's longtime ruler told tens of thousands of supporters Friday that he's ready to leave power but he doesn't trust his opposition, whom he called "drug dealers. Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke in a rare appearance before a cheering crowd outside his presidential palace in the Yemeni capital Friday on a day of dueling demonstrations.

<<APPHOTO XMM121 (03/25/11)>>

: Yemeni children stand between female anti-government protestors attending Friday prayers, during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa,Yemen, Friday, March 25, 2011. Facing growing calls for his resignation, Yemen's longtime ruler told tens of thousands of supporters Friday that he's ready to leave power but he doesn't trust his opposition, whom he called "drug dealers. Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke in a rare appearance before a cheering crowd outside his presidential palace in the Yemeni capital Friday on a day of dueling demonstrations.

<<APPHOTO XMM119 (03/25/11)>>

: An anti-government protestor shouts slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa,Yemen, Friday, March 25, 2011. Facing growing calls for his resignation, Yemen's longtime ruler told tens of thousands of supporters Friday that he's ready to leave power but he doesn't trust his opposition, whom he called "drug dealers. Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke in a rare appearance before a cheering crowd outside his presidential palace in the Yemeni capital Friday on a day of dueling demonstrations.

<<APPHOTO XMM114 (03/25/11)>>

: Supporters of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh attend Friday prayers during a rally to support Saleh in Sanaa,Yemen, Friday, March 25, 2011. Facing growing calls for his resignation, Yemen's longtime ruler told tens of thousands of supporters Friday that he's ready to leave power but he doesn't trust his opposition, whom he called "drug dealers. Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke in a rare appearance before a cheering crowd outside his presidential palace in the Yemeni capital Friday on a day of dueling demonstrations.

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