Friday, February 4, 2011


Thousands of anti-government
protesters have taken to the
streets of Yemen in a planned
"day of rage" against the
president, a day after he offered
to step down in two years time.
Up to 20,000 people gathered in
Sanaa, the capital, on Thursday,
demanding Al Abdullah Saleh end
his 30-year rule of the
impoverished nation, inspired by
ongoing events in Egypt.
But the crowd was met by a
counter rally of pro-government
protesters, leading to small
scuffles between the two
groups until police intervened.
In a separate protest in Aden, a
southern port city, officers
reportedly fired tear gas and live
ammunition to break up
demonstrators, the AFP news
agency said.
The action comes a day after
Saleh announced that he would
not seek extension once his
current term ends in 2013, and
vowed to postpone controversial
April elections - two key
opposition demands.
He also said that he was opposed
to hereditary rule, a response to
suspicion among critics that he
was grooming his eldest son,
Ahmed Saleh, who commands an
elite unit of the Yemeni army, to
succeed him as president.
Saleh's move was an apparent
attempt to defuse anti-
government protests across the
region, inspired by Tunisia's
revolt and the turmoil in Egypt.
Mohammed al-Sabri of the
Common Forum said Saleh's call
to halt protests was
"unacceptable", but added the
group would "discuss the
president's announcement."
Pro-Saleh protests
Anti-government protest plans
had been affected when armed
supporters of Saleh's General
People's Congress took over Al-
Tahrir Square, the planned
protest venue, on Wednesday
They set up tents and were
carrying portraits of the
Opposition group organisers
changed the venue of Thursday's
protests to Sanaa university,
about two kilometres from the
Protesters were joined at the
university by leaders of the
Common Forum, an alliance of
five parliamentary opposition
parties including the religious Al-
Islah party and the Yemeni
Socialist Party.
They expressed solidarity with
Egyptian demonstrators who
were on Thursday staging a 10th
day of increasingly bloody
protests against the government
of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's
Demonstrators held banners
reading, "The people want
regime change," and "No to
corruption, no to dictatorship".
At Al-Tahrir Square in Sanaa, tens
of thousands of government
loyalists pledged their support
for Saleh and carried
banners reading, "We are with Ali
Abdullah Saleh. We are with
Yemen," "The opposition wants
to destroy Yemen" and "No to
destruction, no to sedition."
Facing growing protests since
last month's downfall of Tunisia's
president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
and the wave of pro-democracy
protests in Egypt, Saleh has
urged the government in
Yemen to take measures against
unemployment and ordered that
social security coverage be
Saleh's announcement to step
down, is his boldest gambit yet
to stave off turmoil in Yemen,
which is a key ally of the United
Statest in the fight against al
Yemen is battling to fight the
group whilse also quelling
separatism in the south and
attempting to cement peace with
Shia rebels in the north, all in the
face of crushing poverty.
Instability in Yemen would
present serious political and
security risks for Gulf states.
Saleh, a shrewd political survivor,
has backed out of previous
promises to step aside. Analysts
say that Wednesday's pledge
could be a genuine way to exit
gracefully but he may also hope
to wait out regional unrest and
reassert dominance another day

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