Security forces in Yemen have killed at least four people and wounded hundreds more after opening fire on demonstrations in the capital Sanaa and the town of Taiz, as the UN met to discuss the crisis for the first time.
In Sanaa, the capital, four people were reportedly killed and nearly 100 wounded on Tuesday when riot police stopped protesters marching towards the capital's main Zubeiri street.
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Protesters threw stones at riot police and set fire to a security vehicle, witnesses said.
An Al Jazeera producer reported that four female doctors who had been helping to treat injured protesters were taken away by security forces.
Tariq Numan, a doctor working at a field hospital outside Sanaa university, told Al Jazeera that "hundreds of injured people" were being treated at his facility following the violence.
He said that many had "severe injuries" that appeared to have been caused by gunfire.
"We are still receiving now from the streets tens more injured people," he said, adding that the facility was being overwhelmed by the number of casualties.
"The number is more than our abilities to cope [with]," he said.
In Taiz, south of the capital, at least one person was shot dead and another wounded after police opened fire when protesters burned tyres in the street.
Organisers of the Taiz protest said four people, including a newspaper photographer, had been arrested.
Pro-democracy protesters have been demanding for two months the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president since 1978.
The violence on Tuesday came amid diplomatic efforts in New York to prompt the UN Security Council to respond to the ongoing crisis and support the mediation role of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).
The UN's most powerful body failed to agree on a statement proposed by Lebanon and Germany expressing concern at the political crisis, calling on the parties "to exercise restraint and to enter into a comprehensive dialogue to realise the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people".
"We expressed concern about the situation in Yemen, which is deteriorating. We called for restraint and we appealed to the parties to enter into a dialogue," Peter Wittig, German ambassador to the body, told reporters after the meeting.
The Security Council met as a Yemeni government delegation headed to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, for talks with the six-nation GCC over a proposal for Saleh to transfer power to his deputy to end the crisis.
The opposition held similar talks in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters after the closed Security Council meeting that "there were several delegations that wanted instruction from [their] capitals".
|Injured were treated at a makeshift hospital at the mosque adjoining Sanaa university [Luke Somers]
Other council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, identified the countries as Russia and China.
Rice said "several themes emerged, including a call for restraint and an end to the violence'' and concerns that the events in Yemen not only have implications for the country's security and stability but for regional and international peace and security.
Diplomats said some members raised al-Qaeda and piracy in this discussion.
Ambassadors were briefed by Gamal bin Omer, the UN envoy to Yemen who held talks with Saleh last week, and UN political specialists before the failed attempt to agree on a statement.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Yemen's opposition should be careful not to hold back from talks in the hope of getting foreign help to topple the government.
"That is a very dangerous logic which can cause a chain reaction," he said, speaking during a visit to Serbia.
"All those responsible, particularly members of the UN Security Council, must not opt for conflicts but for dialogue."
The UN children's fund said on Tuesday that 26 children have been killed during violent protests in Yemen over the last two months.
Marixie Mercado, a UNICEF spokeswoman, said that most of the children killed in clashes between security forces and anti-government demonstrators died of wounds from live ammunition.
"It is a sign of the growing attention that Yemen is attracting after Egypt, Tunisia and Libya," said a UN diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity, in reference to other protest-hit Arab states.