Dubai: Yemen's beleaguered President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Tuesday offered to step down by year-end as part of a "constitutional transfer" of power, but refused to hand over power to military.

As his 32-year-old regime continued to be shaken by more military and political defections, Saleh warned that a coup in the country could trigger a civil war, as international pressure also grew on him to bow out.

"I don't wish and will not accept the transfer of power to the military," Saleh,65, said in a nationally televised broadcast, a report reported.

His address came, a day after two soldiers died in clashes between Yemen's regular army and the elite Republican Gurad, loyal to the embattled President in the south-eastern city Mukala.

The President described as "mutiny" the defections of military commanders, including his longtime confidante Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar.

He accused the generals of attempting a "coup" against constitutional and told them, that the "era of coups is gone."

The President who has enjoyed an uninterrupted stint in power since 1978 appeared to be shaky and could be looking for ways to go in exile, al-Jazeera said, quoting top Yemeni officers.

The situation in the country in the war-ravaged country is already tense with a Shia revolt in the north and stepping up of activity by al-Qaeda in the south and the rift in the army has added a new alarming dimension.

The tanks and armoured vehicles of General Ali Mohsen's powerful 1st armoured division are deployed at the Defence Ministry, the TV building, the Central Bank and the Sanaa Square, which has become an epicentre for protesters.

While, the elite Republican Guards, tanks and artilleries are ringing the Presidential palace, facing regular troops since last night, in an uneasy standoff.

The rival deployments, al-Jazeera said had "created a potentially explosive situation in the city in the backdrop of flurry of resignations by army commanders, lawmakers, minister ambassadors and provincial governors, who have asked the President to step down.

(Agencies)