Thousands of protesters in the southern province of Aden in Yemen have clashed with police and army tanks, following a general strike in a demonstration to demand the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

According to media reports, demonstrators hurled stones at police, set tires ablaze, and constructed barricades at the entrance of key roads to keep tanks immobile.

There were also rallies – both for and against Saleh – in Sanaa, the capitol.

Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for more than three decades, recently offered to stay in office until elections are held. He has also warned that Yemen will sink into sectarian chaos without his leadership. In addition, he’s raised the specter of al-Qaeda rising in prominence in the country.

Saleh made the offer directly to Mohammed al-Yadoumi, chief of the opposition Islah party in a meeting that marked the first time the president conferred with Islah.

The opposition could pick a head of government of its own choosing and there would be parliamentary elections by the end of the year, an opposition source said of Saleh's proposal.

However, the opposition rejected the deal and wants Saleh’s immediate departure. A spokesman called it an attempt to prolong the survival of regime.

Protesters also demand that any members of Saleh’s family are excluded from positions of authority.

Meanwhile, the U.S., a strong ally of Saleh, is stuck in a quandary. While the Obama administration wants a peaceful resolution to the crisis, they remain skittish about components of Yemen’s opposition group.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned that Saleh’s fall would present a real problem for America.

Another powerful Saleh ally, Saudi Arabia, regards the Yemeni leader as a strong defense against incursions by al-Qaeda into the region.

Yemeni opposition parties are outraged by the Americans’ support for Saleh.

The Organizational Committee for the Popular Youth Revolution, has asked the U.S. administration to stop aiding Saleh's regime and assured it would not allow al-Qaeda into its ranks.

The U.S. administration should know that there is no place for al-Qaeda and terrorism under a peaceful Yemeni people's revolution which achieves peace and internal harmony, it said. Yemen without Saleh, will be better.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said: The people of Yemen have the same rights as people anywhere, and we support dialogue as a path to a peaceful solution.