WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has concluded Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh will not likely enact reforms demanded by opposition protesters and must be eased out of office, The New York Times reported Sunday, citing U.S. and Yemeni officials.

The United States has talked openly of its concern about who might succeed Saleh, whom it views as an ally who has helped to contain al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based wing of the militant group.

Saleh, in power for 32 years, has said he was prepared to leave eventually but that an abrupt exit would cause chaos.

About 82 people have been killed in anti-government rallies in the Arabian Peninsula state.

President Barack Obama's administration had supported Saleh but began to shift position on the Yemeni leader in the past week, the New York Times said.

American officials have told allies and some reporters that they now view Saleh's hold on office as untenable and they believe he should leave, the newspaper reported.

A Yemeni official was cited as saying negotiations with Saleh on the terms of his possible departure began a little over a week ago, after gunmen linked to the government killed more than 50 protesters at an rally on March 18.

"The Americans have been pushing for transfer of power since the beginning" of the negotiations which were still in progress, the official told the newspaper.

Under an opposition plan, the army and security forces would be restructured by a vice president acting as temporary president, the opposition coalition said Saturday.

Talks have been off and on over the past two weeks, sometimes in the presence of the U.S. ambassador.

Sources say Saleh wants to ensure he and his family do not face prosecution over corruption claims that the opposition has talked about.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; editing by Christopher Wilson)