By FARNAZ FASSIHI And HAKIM ALMASMARI
SAN'A, Yemen—Officials loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would return from Saudi Arabia within days, amid renewed violence in the Yemeni capital, dashing the opposition's hopes for a rapid political transition.
Mr. Saleh's sudden departure for medical treatment on Sunday, after he was wounded in an attack, raised the prospect that protesters and rival tribes had gained ground in their efforts to end his 33-year rule, after over four months of demonstrations against his regime
Mr. Saleh's supporters insisted he planned to return to his role as president after he handed power to his vice president before leaving for Riyadh.
Government spokesperson Abdu Ganadi said that Mr. Saleh would return to Yemen within days and that his health was good.
"President Saleh went on a typical medical visit. Why are people surprised that he is coming back to Yemen? Isn't he Yemeni and the constitutional president of Yemen?" Mr. Ganadi said. He said Mr. Saleh is expected to be in San'a before Friday.
Mr. Saleh handed authority to Vice President Abdul Rabu Mansoor Hadi, who ordered a halt to clashes in San'a by government and tribal forces on Sunday, and the government said it would remove its forces from areas of intense fighting.
In response, Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, the leader of the powerful Hashid tribe which has been fighting against Mr. Saleh's rule, evacuated his militia from government buildings and echoed the call for a cease-fire.
Officials in the U.S. and Europe took the opportunity to publicly press Mr. Saleh to step down.
"An immediate transition is in the best interests of the Yemeni people," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Washington.
Earlier on Monday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner declined to say whether the U.S. preferred Mr. Saleh to say in Saudi Arabia. But he pointed out at a news briefing that Yemen's constitution forms a roadmap for a transition of power.
The European Union's foreignpolicy chief, Catherine Ashton said she hoped Mr. Saleh would let his country "move on," the Associated Press reported.
Violence following his departure Sunday, however, raised obstacles for the peaceful, constitutional transfer of power that the Obama administration has advocated.
The cease-fire declared after Mr. Saleh's departure proved precarious. Explosions could be heard at hourly intervals in northern San'a, while forces loyal to the departed president attacked Sheik Sadeq's militia in the neighborhood of Hasba, killing three tribesmen, according to Sheik Sadeq's office.
Sheik Sadeq didn't retaliate, saying he honored the cease-fire. If more attacks are staged against his tribe, fighting between the two rivals could resume.
"The tribes are insistent that the cease-fire continues, but the republican guards want chaos as usual to show the people that without Saleh, Yemen is not safe and clashes will take place everywhere," said Abdul Qawi Qaisi, the spokesman for Sheik Sadeq.
The Yemeni government denied that it was carrying out attacks, and said that tribes were finding excuses to spread more bloodshed.
"The international community is trying to help in ending violence in Yemen, but that would be difficult with armed gunmen in all the streets of the capital." said Zaid Thari, a senior ruling-party official.