The US has done a quiet about-face on Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and after months of supporting him despite widespread protests, officials now say the US believes he should leave power. The Obama administration garnered criticism for failing to publicly criticize Saleh, even as the US rushed to oust Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, but American and Yemeni officials say that changed over the past week and that the US is now in negotiations with Saleh over the terms of his departure. The shift began after government-linked gunmen killed more than 50 protesters on March 18, the New York Times reports.
The Obama administration, which has been slow to oppose Saleh because he is an ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, now believes he will not bring about the necessary reforms in Yemen. Officials have yet to publicly call for his ouster, but have told allies that a transfer of power is necessary. That transfer would likely be to a provisional government led by Saleh's vice president, however, which protesters may not accept. The student-led opposition has rejected the idea of giving power to any leader in Saleh's government.