Yemeni president calls for early elections

By the Associated Press | May 20, 2011 | 7:58 AM EDT

A Yemeni girl sits in front of female anti-government protestors attending noon prayers, during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, May 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's president has called for early presidential elections, ignoring a deal that would end his decades-long rule.

Ali Abdullah Saleh was speaking to a crowd of supporters in Sanaa Friday as thousands of his opponents gathered in a nearby square, chanting slogans against him.

He didn't specify a date for elections or mention a regional proposal to leave power in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The opposition has accused Saleh of stalling.

Yemen is reeling from three months of street protests. The United States, which until recently considered Saleh a key ally in fighting al-Qaida, has backed away from the leader.

President Barack Obama said Thursday that "Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power."