Yemeni leader accepts Abdullah's health offer

YEMEN'S injured president has accepted an offer from Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to travel there for medical treatment for burns and wounds from a splintered pulpit blown apart in a rebel rocket attack.

Conflicting reports about president Ali Abdullah Saleh's whereabouts and condition spread through the Middle East last night after Yemeni government officials and opposition tribal leaders reported that Abdullah had mediated a ceasefire in the conflict in Yemen, intervening in what has become an all-out military conflict on his southern border. The capital and other areas of Yemen grew quiet for the first time in days after dawn yesterday.

The extent of Saleh's injuries have been a matter of intense speculation. When the rocket struck the mosque in his presidential compound, he was surrounded by top government officials and his bodyguards. Eleven guards died and five of the officials who were standing next to the president were seriously wounded and taken to Saudi Arabia.

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Abdullah waded into the conflict after nearly four months of largely peaceful protests seeking to depose Saleh spun out of control into an increasingly bloody civil war. Past ceasefires have not held and international diplomacy has so far failed to oust Yemen's leader of 33 years.

Rebel tribesmen directly attacked Saleh for the first time when they landed the rockets on the mosque.

A secretary in Saleh's office and a ruling party official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Saleh spoke to the Saudi monarch afterwards.While Saleh accepted the offer of treatment, the officials said, the president's plane had not left Sanaa airport last night.

Sheik Mohammed Nagi al-Shayef, a leader of the Saleh-allied Bakeel tribe, said he met the president last night at the Defence Ministry compound in the capital. "He suffered burns but they were not serious. He was burned on both hands, his face and head," he said.

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