Middle East
Demonstrations resume in Yemen
Protesters take to the streets of Sanaa for 12th day but Saleh insists he will step down after serving his term.
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2011 14:54 GMT
The protests broke out a day after a teenager was killed in a clash with soldiers in the southern port of Aden [Reuters]

Anti-government protesters in Yemen have resumed demonstrations to try to force Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, to quit, burning a car belonging to his supporters in the capital Sanaa, reports say.

Tuesday's protests broke out a day after a teenager was killed and four people wounded in a clash with soldiers in the country's southern port of Aden, according to witnesses.

Demonstrators, inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt that have forced long-serving presidents out of power, have been protesting for 12 days against the rule of Saleh, in power since 1978.

But mounting pressure has so far yielded little result as Saleh insists he will only step down after national elections are held in 2013.

He said protesters demanding an end to his rule could not achieve their goal through "anarchy and killing".

He told a news conference on Monday that he had ordered troops not to fire at anti-government protesters, except in self-defence, though medical officials say at least 11 people have been killed in demonstrations.

Saleh's government was already weak before the protests, facing a southern separatist movement and disaffected tribesmen around the country.

He has been quietly co-operating with the US in efforts to battle an al-Qaeda branch that has taken root in Yemen, but his government exercises limited control in the tribal areas beyond Sanaa. The US gives Yemen military aid and training.

Police back off

In Tuesday's protests, police seemed to back off slightly in at least one instance. Officers stood by as demonstrators marched in the eastern town of al-Shiher, chanting "Down, down with Saleh".

Thousands rallied at a university campus while hundreds continued to camp out in a nearby square, just the way protesters in Cairo did during the unrest that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters also set up checkpoints around the Sanaa square and searched those trying to enter.

In Taiz, Yemen's second-largest city, thousands of protesters marched in the Safir square. An activist, Ahmed Ghilan, said hundreds have been camping in the square for more than a week. They have renamed it "Freedom Square".

In the port city of Aden, schools closed, most government employees were not working and many shops were closed as hundreds gathered for another round of protests.

A spokesman for the opposition has rebuffed Saleh's offer of dialogue and an influential group of Muslim religious leaders has called for a national unity government that would lead the country to elections.

As anti-government protesters carried on, Saleh's supporters, armed with daggers and batons, clashed violently with students in Sanaa before police intervened.

Five people were hurt in the confrontation.

Swelling crowd

About 1,000 students had spent a second night camped at a square near Sanaa university, dubbed Al-Huriya (Liberty) Square, where they erected a huge tent on Tuesday.

The crowd swelled to about 4,000 and as the protesters moved from the square close to where Saleh's loyalists are bunkered down, the group attacked them with daggers and batons.

The students, some of whom were also armed with batons, responded.

"Thanks to Saleh, Yemen has remained one. I do not want him to fall," Hussein al-Yassin, a retiree, said as he fastened two red, white and black Yemeni flags on his car.

"Those behind the unrest are southerners being financed from the outside," the retiree said, repeating official views that unidentified outside forces have been behind the unrest.

The stability argument is rejected by unemployed Yemenis.
"Those who support Saleh are the ones who benefit from his rule," Ahmad al-Sharif, a 25-year old unemployed technician, said.

"Even if he is a good man, the corruption that he has allowed by the people around him is inexcusable."

Yemen's average per capita income is only $1,100 per year and the country is excluded altogether from the Global Competiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum.

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