The protest movement in Yemen appears to be picking up momentum as President Ali Abdullah Saleh engaged in serious talks about ending his three-decade rule, according to media reports.
Saleh was defiant toward anti-government protesters, but was discussing the timing and conditions of giving up power, The New York Times reports.
He was also close to making a deal with Yemen's top military official, Major Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, who has aligned himself with the anti-government protestors, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. According to that report, both men would step down and a civilian-led caretaker government would shepherd Yemen through the transition. A deal could be reached as early as Saturday, the Journal reported.
The future of Saleh’s sons and relatives, many of whom run elite counterterrorism units in Yemen that are funded and trained by the U.S., is a sticking point in the negotiations, the Journal reported Friday. Although opposition parties want political reforms, Ahmar and others in the opposition are questioning whether a disruption in the command structure could expose Yemen to the threat posed by al-Qaida.
Demonstrations on Friday are expected to be among the largest yet in Yemen.