Sana'a, Mar 22, 2011 -Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has warned military leaders that any attempt at a coup will lead to civil war, after several top commanders defected to the side of opposition protesters.
In a nationally televised address Tuesday, Saleh said any division within the military will have a negative impact on the entire nation.
Yemen's top military figure, Major General Mohsen al-Ahmar, was among the military leaders who defected Monday. Ahmar said he would "support the peaceful revolution" after he deployed thousands of soldiers to protect protesters who have been calling for the president to step down.
A wave of government officials, tribal leaders and diplomats defected after gunmen loyal to the president opened fire on a group of protesters Friday, killing 52 people.
Saleh fired his entire Cabinet Sunday, preempting what one government official said was a planned mass resignation.
Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has offered to hold a dialogue on a new constitution with the opposition and has promised to step down from office at the end of his term in 2013. Activists have rejected those offers, and plan to continue demonstrations until he is gone.