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Sun 7 Aug 2011 06:52 PM

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Yemen's president leaves Saudi hospital, say sources

Ali Abdullah Saleh said to be walking and in 'good condition' two months after assassination attempt

Yemen's president leaves Saudi hospital, say sources
Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. (AFP/Getty Images)

Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh left hospital in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, government and medical sources said, two months after suffering severe injuries in an assassination attempt at his palace compound in Sanaa.

The sources said Saleh was walking and in "good condition" as he headed to a government residence in the Saudi capital Riyadh. It is not yet clear when the 69-year-old leader will return to Yemen, which has been paralysed by over six months of protests against his 33-year rule.

Saleh's impoverished Arabian Peninsula country has been in a political stalemate since he was flown out in June after a bomb blast inside the mosque at his presidential compound.

As efforts to negotiate Saleh's exit stalled after the attack, clashes with Islamist militants in the south and pro-opposition tribesmen around Sanaa have risen. This has revived the risk of civil war in the country, which had pulled back from the brink after fierce fighting in Sanaa three months ago.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the United States, both targets of foiled attacks by al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, have pushed for the signing of a Gulf-brokered power transition plan.

Saleh, who has vowed to return to rule Yemen since his attack, has backed out of signing the deal three times.

A period of relative calm during Saleh's convalescence has been threatened by rising clashes around Sanaa and in the protest hotbed of Taiz, about 200km (120 miles) to the south.

On Saturday, forces loyal to Saleh traded fire with gunmen loyal to the opposition figure Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the tribal Hashed confederation. Republican Guard forces clashed with pro-opposition gunmen about 40km (25 miles) outside Sanaa.

In Taiz, forces loyal to Saleh opened fire on anti-government protests, killing one and injuring three others on Saturday.

In a sign that stalled efforts at a transition deal may be revived, Yemen's state news agency quoted foreign minister Abubakr al-Qirbi as saying a future mediated solution would be based on the former Gulf plan, and warned of the threat of civil war without a political dialogue.

"This will lead to what was feared by many, a civil war, because society is divided in two," he told the Yemeni television station al-Saeeda on Sunday.

"Confidence will not come except through the ballot box," he said, referring to a proposal by the president for dialogue followed by elections, a move the opposition has labelled a stalling technique.

While Saleh and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Megawar are now out of hospital, several people in his entourage remain there.

The speaker of Yemen's Shura, or appointed upper council, as well as the governor of Sanaa are still in intensive care. Two deputies of the prime minister and the speaker of parliament are also still in hospital, government sources said.

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