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Obama Welcomes Yemeni President's Decision to Step Down

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh

FILE- This photo shows Ali Abdullah Saleh. (AP)

President Obama is welcoming the decision by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, saying it's an important step forward for the Yemeni people.

In a statement Wednesday, Obama urged all involved to immediately implement the agreement, under which Saleh will transfer power to his vice president and elections will be held. Saleh has held power for 33 years but has become the latest Arab leader toppled in protests.

The U.S. and its Gulf allies pressed for the deal, concerned that a security collapse would embolden al-Qaida supporters.

Obama said the U.S. would stand by the Yemeni people "as they embark on this historic transition" to realize their aspirations for a new beginning, and he acknowledged "important work" done by Gulf allies.