FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Yemen

Wed Feb 2, 2011 9:17am GMT

SANAA Feb 2 (Reuters) - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, eyeing protests that ousted Tunisia's leader and threaten to topple the Egyptian president, has again pledged not to try to extend his presidency in 2013 or hand over to his son.

"No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock," Saleh said on Wednesday, speaking a day before a planned "Day of Rage" rally in Sanaa against his almost 33 years in power.

Yemen's main Islamist opposition party said Thursday's protests would go ahead anyway.

Saleh, whose term expires in 2013, has made similar promises in the past, notably in 2005 when he said he would not be a candidate in the 2006 election, only to change his mind.

His ruling party has responded to sporadic anti-government protests by calling for dialogue with the opposition, with which it has sparred over presidential term limits and other political reforms demanded ahead of parliamentary elections due in April.

Saleh had already offered some concessions on term limits and pledged to raise salaries of civil servants and military personnel by around $47 a month, no small move in a state where about 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

Yemen, a strategic U.S. ally against a resurgent al Qaeda arm, is trying to cement a peace deal with northern rebels and quell a southern separatist revolt, all in the face of crushing poverty, dwindling oil revenue and an acute water shortage.

Global security concerns focused on Yemen, a neighbour of top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, after the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) tried to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner in December 2009 and despatched parcel bombs by airfreight to Chicago that were intercepted in October 2010.

Worries about instability and corruption have deterred significant foreign investment in Yemen beyond the oil industry, limiting economic growth and worsening unemployment.   Continued...

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