Sanaa: Yemen`s opposition held mass protests Monday, escalating demands for the immediate departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the ailing leader said his future should be determined at the ballot box.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched in two demonstrations, one for men and another for women, from Change Square, epicentre of anti-regime protests which have rocked Yemen since late January.
Mohammed Qahtan, spokesman for the parliamentary Common Forum of opposition parties, said Saleh clearly had no intention of quitting.
"Saleh has shown in his address that he is still clinging to power, and that he refuses the Gulf initiative that provides for a political transfer," Qahtan said.
"After the speech of the president, there is no way to reach a political solution, and the revolution will intensify," he added.
Saleh, who unexpectedly returned Friday to Yemen after months in Saudi Arabia for treatment from bomb blast wounds, late on Sunday challenged the opposition to head to early elections.
"You who are running after power, let us head together toward the ballot boxes. We are against coups," he said in a speech marking the 49th anniversary of the September 26, 1962 revolution that saw Yemen proclaimed a republic.
"We have repeatedly called for power transfer through the ballot box... let us head together to dialogue and peaceful rotation over power through the ballot box and early presidential elections as the Gulf initiative stipulates," he said.
In Taez, Yemen`s second largest city, hundreds of thousands marched from Jamal Street to the protest encampment at Freedom Square.
And in the southern port of Aden, thousands of protesters demanded the fall of the regime and that "those behind the crimes" in Sanaa be prosecuted.
The 69-year-old Saleh has repeatedly refused to sign a power transfer deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) under which he would hand power to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi in return for immunity from prosecution.
But he said on Sunday he had authorised Hadi to sign the deal on his behalf.