A leading Yemeni political figure has urged embattled president Ali Abdullah Saleh not just to resign from power, but also to leave the country.
Hamid al-Ahmar, a member of the opposition Islamist Yemeni Congregation for Reform, or Islah, party, told the BBC that anti-government protesters plan to accelerate their push to drive Saleh away.
Saleh has agreed to quit by January 2012, but opponents demand he leave immediately.
Ahmar said Saleh and his family have no immediate future in Yemen. They should leave power, they should leave the country for their own safety.
If he goes now, he can still go with some dignity, but his time is running out, Ahmar added.
Ahmar is an influential and powerful opposition figure. He is also a businessman who can speak English and spent part of his childhood in the U.S.
Some in the west do not trust Islah parties, accusing it of harboring al Qaeda.
The chaos in Yemen is now, Ahmar told the BBC. We are already talking to [the Americans], assuring them that any satisfactory plan to fight terror in Yemen will be respected by the new leadership of Yemen.
Anti-Saleh demonstrations have been unyielding from weeks. Adding to the protesters’ ire was the death of 150 people earlier this week during an explosion at a factory (which some blame on the government).
The blasts, which took place in the town of Jaar, in central Abyan province, occurred when local people were looking for weapons left behind by alleged Islamist militants who clashed with government troops on Sunday.
The Yemeni government blamed the tragedy on al-Qaeda (who are known to exist in the countryside), while many in the opposition believe the government allowed it to happen by removing troops from the area so it could be overrun by militants ( as a ploy to incite chaos and frighten the populace).
Meanwhile, Saleh would seem to have few options left, given that many of his top aides have defected to the other side. As protesters are demanding that even if he resign he should be prosecuted for alleged crimes he committed during his rule, few other nations would likely accept him in exile, particularly the west.
Ironically, Saleh has been a strong ally of the US and UK, primarily for his efforts to root out Al Qaeda terrorists hiding out in Yemen.
Even Saudi Arabia, another strong backer of Saleh, has been unusually quiet over the events in Yemen.