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Yemeni opposition rejects new proposals

Yemeni anti-government protesters pray during demonstration outside Sanaa University to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh's step down after three decades in power on February 26, 2011 in Sanaa, Yemen. Important Yemeni tribal leaders, including those of the Hashid and Baqil, pledged to join protests today at a gathering north of the capital. UPI
Yemeni anti-government protesters pray during demonstration outside Sanaa University to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh's step down after three decades in power on February 26, 2011 in Sanaa, Yemen. Important Yemeni tribal leaders, including those of the Hashid and Baqil, pledged to join protests today at a gathering north of the capital. UPI | License Photo

SANAA, Yemen, March 10 (UPI) -- Opposition leaders in Yemen rejected concessions made by Yemeni President Abdullah Ali Saleh to draft a new constitution before the end of the year.

Saleh said Thursday a new constitution would bring about a separation of powers and pave the way for new general elections that would usher in a parliamentary system.

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He offered several key concessions to his opponents but refused to step down before his term expires in 2013.

GALLERY: Rallies for and against the government of Yemen

Mohammad Qahtan, a spokesman for the Yemeni opposition, was quoted by al-Jazeera as saying presidential concessions took too long to emerge.

"This initiative is too late," he said. "The demands on the street go beyond that and are bigger than that."

Anti-government protests have continued throughout much of the year in Yemen. Demonstrators want an end to Saleh's 32 years in power.

Saleh said a referendum to consider his proposal was planned for this year, though he was sure it would be rejected.

"I'm already sure that this initiative won't be accepted by the opposition but, in order to do the right thing, I am offering this to the people and they will decide," he was quoted as saying.

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Amnesty International said at least 30 people were killed in Yemen during political unrest that started in early February.

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