SANAA, Yemen – Yemen's president offered Monday to form a unity government with opponents who want him out of office — provided protests against him stop. Opposition swiftly rejected the gesture.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh's latest overture comes a day before opponents were to stage "a day of rage" around the country to push for his ouster.
The long-timer leader has come under mounting pressure in recent weeks to step down, with large anti-government rallies being held daily, and key allies, including some tribal chiefs, abandoning him.
Opposition figure Mohammed Saleh al-Qubati rejected Saleh's offer, saying he should step down instead of offering outdated "tranquilizers."
Saleh's efforts to stay in power appeared to receive another blow Monday when top leader of the Baqil tribe — the second largest in Yemen — called on him to "do what the people want and take important and rapid decisions that meet the demands of the people."
Sheikh Amin al-Okeimy, who is a member of Saleh's ruling Congress Party, said in a statement that the tribe stands by "the people until they achieve all their goals."
The statement came two days after a pair of powerful chiefs from Saleh's own tribe, Hashid, abandoned him.
Saleh, who has been in power 32 years, has promised to step down after national elections in 2013, but that has not stopped the protests.
Saleh told religious leaders Monday that leaving office can't be just his decision, but needs to also be that of the people.
"I am ready to form a national unity government" when the opposition names its candidates for government posts, Saleh said, adding that it should happen after protests end.
The president accused his opponents of "planning to reach power through chaos."
He warned that Yemen is going through a difficult period, and if the country collapsed, it "will not split into southern and northern parts, but it will be torn apart to four or five sectors."
Beyond the unrest of protesters, the impoverished country has a separatist movement in the south and an active branch of al-Qaida.