Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has sent messages to Arab Gulf states, asking for a safe exit for himself and his family, sources told Al Jazeera.

Saleh, who was forced to step down in 2012 after a wave of protests against his rule, is said to be backing Houthi rebels who have seized the capital Sanaa and are battling forces loyal to embattled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia.

The message for safe passage was communicated by leaders of the General Popular Congress, including former Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, sources told Al Jazeera. Saleh has been leader of the GPC.