A nephew of President Ali Abdullah Saleh who commands a key paramilitary unit has called for talks to end Yemen's political stand-off but threatened to "break the necks" of any faction that seeks again to remove Saleh by force.
Brigadier General Yehia Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, an important power broker as head of the Central Security Forces, also said Yemen would not slide anew into the open warfare seen in May after months of street protests aimed at toppling the president.
Saleh is recuperating in Saudi Arabia from wounds suffered in an assassination attempt during battles with tribal factions that levelled parts of the capital Sanaa.
A Yemeni government official said on Wednesday Saleh would reconsider a plan brokered by Gulf neighbours for him to hand over power. He has backed out of it three times, raising fears of a downward spiral into anarchy beneficial to al Qaeda militants entrenched in the Arabian Peninsula state.
"There is no solution other than dialogue to put an end to this crisis," Brigadier General Saleh said in an interview.
In an apparent reference to the forces of Sadeq al-Ahmar, a leader of one part of the powerful al-Hashed tribal confederation, and General Ali Mohsen, a longtime ally who turned on the president, General Saleh played down the risk of more fighting while vowing to prevail in it.
"Some forces are pushing for confrontations. I reassure the Yemenis that this will not happen," he said. "The concerns about a civil war in Yemen are false, God willing," he told Reuters.
"But if they resort to arms or force, they know we will break their necks. And we will break the neck of anyone who tries to damage or harm the security and stability of the nation."
MORE DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE, POLITICAL DEAL AWAITED
The president, who emerged on Sunday from the Riyadh hospital where he was treated for severe burns and other injuries, has been strongly advised by U.S. envoys not to return to Yemen, as he has repeatedly vowed to do.
The Yemeni government official said late on Wednesday that Saleh had met senior loyalists, including the prime minister wounded in the same assassination attempt, in Riyadh to discuss the power transfer deal that he has scuppered repeatedly.
The plan was crafted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a six-nation bloc of Yemen's wealthier neighbours including Saudi Arabia, which shares the fears of Washington that chaos in Yemen could embolden the country's wing of al Qaeda.
That concern was echoed by the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, when it cited the humanitarian crisis in a southern Yemeni province where Islamist fighters have seized territory, sparking mass flight, and called for a transfer of power.
A Yemeni government official said the U.N. envoy on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, was expected in Sanaa soon and that the president would communicate with opposition parties and foreign powers over the means of agreeing a power transfer.
General Saleh, who along with the president's son and other relatives in charge of key military units constitute one centre of power in the country, acknowledged a transition may occur.
"He is president until 2013. However, if there is a political solution, this a different situation," he said,
But he scorned the array of leftist, Islamist and other opposition parties which have previously agreed the deal but have little sway over the protesters who have taken to the streets since January, demanding Saleh be prosecuted.
"The opposition is a group of liars," he said, when queried about claims that his forces are shooting protesters. "Anti-terrorism forces are present -- to fight terrorism, and are not being used against protesters."
He blamed fighting in the town of Arhab, about 40 km north of Sanaa, on an alliance between militant Islamists and the forces of General Mohsen, who has deployed troops to separate Saleh's forces from protesters since parting ways with Saleh.
"Those who are fighting in Arhab are not from Arhab, they are from al Qaeda and the First Armoured Brigade," he said.