Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Yemeni opposition leaders and protesters intensified their demands on Wednesday for the creation of a presidential council that would take power from the country’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is recovering in Saudi Arabia from wounds sustained in an attack on his palace mosque last week.
One prominent group of protesters and human rights activists announced Wednesday that they intended to form their own presidential council if the government did not abandon Mr. Saleh — a gesture that could provoke Mr. Saleh’s supporters. Another faction, the formal political opposition, which has been unable to arrange a dialogue with the governing party, is also pressing for an acknowledgment that Mr. Saleh is gone for good.
Although the opposition and the protesters are at odds on major points — notably the question of whether Mr. Saleh and his family should receive immunity from prosecution — both groups are keen to use Mr. Saleh’s absence to remove him permanently from the political scene.
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The Obama administration continued to press for a transitional government to take power while Mr. Saleh is recuperating, and it urged the existing government to take action. “This isn’t a time for inaction,” said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman. “There is a government that remains in place there, and they need to seize the moment and move forward.”
But Yemeni officials repeated their insistence Wednesday that Mr. Saleh — said to have suffered burns to over 40 percent of his body — was in stable condition and would soon return to Yemen.
South of the capital, Sana, an uneasy standoff persisted in two cities. In Taiz, where some of the largest antigovernment demonstrations have taken place, much of the city remained in the hands of tribesmen who have taken up the protesters’ cause, as government troops and tanks withdrew.
On the southern Yemeni coast, conditions are growing worse in Zinjibar, which was overrun by Islamist fighters this month, local officials said. After days of fierce gun battles between government troops and the rebels, dozens of bodies lay in the streets, and animals have begun to eat them, said Khodr Saidi, the public health director for Abyan Province, where Zinjibar is located.
A cholera epidemic has also broken out in the city, which has run short of food and water, Mr. Saidi said. The military has fought hard to retake the city in recent days, and at least 40 people have been killed on both sides, witnesses and local officials said.
Muhammad al-Ahmadi and Kawkab al-Thaibani contributed reporting from Sana, Yemen, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.