SANAA (Agencies) - Yemens embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh rebuffed on Saturday opposition calls to step down saying his regime is firm, as his ruling party said he should serve out his term until 2013. Saleh, in power for more than 30 years and a key US ally in its fight against Al-Qaeda, has faced two months of street protests and his regime has been hit by defections in the ranks of top military and tribal leaders over the past two weeks. We stand steadfast, firm as mountains, and will not be shaken by the events, Saleh told tribal chiefs, a day after he told crowds of supporters that he would hand power only to 'safe hands. The legitimate authority is firm and steadfast in face of challenges, and we shall not allow a small minority to overcome the majority of the Yemeni people, Saleh said. Salehs General Peoples Congress party said the president should stay in office. It is unacceptable and illogical to override the constitutional legality or for the minority to impose its will on the majority of the people, the party said. It accused the opposition of having 'closed the door to dialogue and sought isolation, and said the crowds who took part in a rally of solidarity with Saleh on Friday numbered as many as three million. Power will only be handed over to someone chosen by the people through elections, the only way for a peaceful transition of power, party spokesman Tareq al-Shami told AFP on the morning after the meeting. The people have had their say, Shami said. In the absence of a national agreement, we are committed to the constitutional process, which provides for presidential elections in 2013. Meanwhile, a deal to transfer power peacefully in Yemen could emerge shortly based on an offer by President Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit by the end of the year, Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told Reuters. But Al Arabiya television later quoted Saleh as saying that while he was prepared to step down with respect even within hours in response to relentless popular unrest, a deal did not appear imminent since his opponents had hardened their demands. I hope it (agreement) will be today, before tomorrow, Qirbi told Reuters in an interview, adding that the time frame of a transfer of power could be negotiated. Saleh himself said he would hand over power but only to 'safe hands, in a defiant speech to his massed supporters, a day after talks with a top defector apparently failed to defuse the crisis. You are the ones who will be handed power, the Yemeni strongman told his supporters. In the south of the country, a security source said army soldiers killed six suspected Al-Qaeda members who attacked a post at a power plant in Loder, a town in restive Abyan province, a stronghold of the Islamist militants. Government forces and Al-Qaeda militants fought a pitched battle in the town of Loder in August 2010, when at least 33 people were killed, including 19 militants. Analysts have said Salehs role as a key US anti-Qaeda ally has likely contributed to Washingtons relatively muted response to deadly crackdowns on pro-democracy protests in Yemen. The president, whose concessions and offers to stand down by the end of 2011 have been snubbed by the opposition, renewed his invitation for youths at the forefront of the protests to join a dialogue. I am ready to talk to you and to form a political party for the youths, said Saleh, 69, who has ruled Yemen since 1978. In behind-the-scenes talks aimed at averting more bloodshed, Saleh and top dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, considered the second strongest man in Yemen, failed to strike a deal on Thursday night, the two sides said. Defections to the opposition accelerated after Saleh regime loyalists opened fire during a protest in Sanaa on March 18, killing 52 people and sparking worldwide condemnation. Ahmar, a regional army commander who has vowed to defend the protesters, is leading efforts to form a transitional council grouping all sides, according to sources close to the secret negotiations.