Sanaa: Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he has no desire to be in power and added that only dialogue could save the country from sliding into civil war.

 “I have already said and I now reiterate that I am not clinging on to power”, Saleh said in an interview with a television channel.

“I’ve spent 32 years (in office)... This is experience that I want to transfer peacefully to the people, not to chaos”, he said, referring to the two months of anti-regime protests which have rocked Yemen.”

On Saturday, Saleh insisted that his regime stood “firm” despite the protests around the country and a spate of defections in top military ranks and tribal leaders.

“The legitimate authority is firm and steadfast in the face of challenges, and we will not allow a small minority to overcome the majority of the Yemeni people”, he said.

Saleh has reportedly offered to step down by the end of 2011, a proposal snubbed by the opposition. But his ruling party on Friday said he should serve out his current term until a scheduled presidential election in 2013.

Defections have multiplied since a bloodbath in Sanaa on March 18 when 52 protesters were gunned down by Saleh loyalists, drawing widespread international condemnation.