Sanaa, Jan 23 : Yemen's veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he will head to the United States for medical treatment as he asked his people for forgiveness in a farewell speech delivered as he left Sanaa on Sunday.
"I will go to the United States for treatment and will then return as head of the General People's Congress (GPC) party," Saleh said in a televised speech.
"I ask for forgiveness from all my people, men and women, for any shortcomings during my 33-year-long rule," he added.
An official close to the presidency told AFP that "the Yemeni president left Sanaa," without specifying Saleh's destination.
His departure came a day after parliament adopted a law giving Saleh "complete" immunity from prosecution in return for stepping down under a transition deal brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
The immunity law has drawn wide condemnation from young protesters, who have seen hundreds of their compatriots killed by Saleh's security forces and loyalists since the uprising against his rule broke out in January 2011.
It has also been strongly criticised by Western rights groups and the United Nations. Saleh in his farewell speech defended the law, saying that those who have benefited from it are "all those who have worked with the president during a 33-year-long rule."
"If there had been mistakes, then they were unintentional as the president has immunity from his own people to whom he had dedicated his life to serve for this nation," Saleh said as he called for "reconciliation" in the country.
"The poor youths (who have continued) sit-ins for 11 months, go back to your homes and families and open up a new page with the new leadership. I feel sorry for you," Saleh said.