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Wounded Saleh leaves Saudi hospital

Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has left a hospital in Saudi Arabia more than two months after being severely wounded in an attack on his palace compound.

A Yemeni government official said Saleh, who checked out of a hospital in the Saudi capital on Saturday, had officially asked Saudi authorities to return to Yemen along with a medical team. His request appears to have been turned down, at least for now, the official said.

The ailing president moved from the hospital to a Saudi government residence in the city to further recuperate, Yemen's SABA state news agency said. A second Yemeni official said the president would remain in Riyadh for the time being because he was still under medical supervision. "We don't know yet when he will return to the country, but soon, God willing," the official said.

Saleh's more than two-month absence from Yemen has only added to the uncertainty and instability in the country, the Arab world's poorest, and there are fears his return could throw an already unstable Yemen into further chaos.

The anti-government protests show no signs of abating and the economy lies in tatters. Islamist militants - some believed to have links to al Qaida - have also seized upon the growing chaos to take over entire towns in the south.

The country's politics, meanwhile, have been in a state of near paralysis. Vice president Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi is nominally in charge in Saleh's absence. The real power on the ground appears to be Saleh's son, who controls some of the country's best-trained military forces, and the powerful Hashid tribal confederation, which opposes the regime.

Government troops and Hashid fighters clashed last week in Sanaa and remain locked in a tense stand-off. In late May, the two fought pitched street battles in the capital that threatened to escalate into a full-scale war.

Saleh's continued stay in Riyadh, despite checking out of the hospital, appears to indicate the intense pressure he is under from his Saudi hosts as well as the Americans to relinquish power.

Riyadh, long one of Saleh's top allies, is now among those pressing him to give up power. Anxious about the unrest on its southern doorstep, Saudi Arabia was among a group of six nations in the Gulf seeking to persuade Saleh to step down in return for immunity from prosecution. The US also backed the deal.

Saleh agreed to the plan three times, only to back out at the last minute. The attack on his palace came days after he pulled out of the deal for the third time.

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