May 20 - Speaking at a pro government rally in Sanaa, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh says the country needs early presidential elections in order to avoid further bloodshed. Nick Rowlands reports.
A pro-government rally in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Friday. Demonstrators are chanting, "The people want Ali Abdullah Saleh." Saleh promises early presidential elections. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) YEMENI PRESIDENT, ALI ABDULLAH SALEH: "We call for an early presidential election to stop the bloodshed." The head of President Saleh's ruling party says the Gulf-mediated agreement to transfer power will be signed on Sunday. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HEAD OF THE GENERAL PEOPLE'S CONGRESS (RULING PARTY IN THE PARLIAMENT BLOCK), SULTAN AL-BARAKANI: "The issue is final and confirmed. The Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Mr Abdellatif al-Zayany has been officially informed and other friends and brothers will be present as well. All the formalities and the deadline for signing have been finalised." The United States and Saudi Arabia are both keen to end the political crisis and avert the chaos that could allow al Qaeda's Yemen wing to grow in power. US President Barack Obama said in a speech on Thursday that Saleh needs to "follow through on his commitment to transfer power." But protesters want Saleh - who has ruled the country for nearly 33 years - out immediately. They have threatened to step up their campaign by marching on government buildings, a move that provoked a violent response from the state last week. Nick Rowlands, Reuters.