Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Sunday he will travel to Washington for medical treatment and he asked Yemenis for forgiveness, saying it is time to hand over power in a farewell speech, state media reported. The mercurial president told Yemeni TV networks that he had formally handed power to his vice president but would return to his homeland before early presidential elections scheduled for next month as the head of the General People's Congress Party.
An official at Sanaa airport said that a presidential plane had left the country this morning, but he declined to say who was on board. Two other airport officials said that Saleh had already left the country, but the claims could not be confirmed. The reports come a day after Yemeni parliament approved a law that gives Saleh immunity from prosecution and is in line with the timetable set in a US-backed power-transfer deal aimed at ending months of political stalemate and violence. (Read more Ali Abdullah Saleh stories.)