Hundreds of thousands rally across Yemen

Pro- and anti-Saleh demonstrations held in capital, while protesters in Taiz chant slogans against Saudi Arabia.

    Friday reportedly saw one of the weakest shows of pro-Saleh support in Sanaa since rallies began in February [AFP]

    Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have staged rallies for and against the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, across the country.

    The demonstrations after Friday prayers came as Saleh continued to receive medical treatment in neighbouring Saudi Arabia for severe wounds sustained in an explosion at his presidential compound on June 3.

    Saleh, 69, who has faced nearly six months of protests against his 33-year rule, has not appeared in public since the blast that killed 11 people and wounded 124 others, among them senior officials.

    Pro-democracy protesters vowed on Friday to continue their demonstrations until their demands are met.

    "Hand in hand to achieve our goal" and "the people want a transitional council," the protesters, estimated by organisers to number around 250,000, chanted in Sanaa, the capital.

    The demonstrators were protected by dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar's troops.

    "We are calling for freedom, justice, order and a civil government. We demand that the public income is used by the public and that people have equal job opportunities," said Abdul Hameed Abu Hatem, a protester.

    Wassim al-Qurshi, a protest leader, told the AFP news agency: "We want the departure of the remains of the regime as well as the swift formation of an interim ruling council that would lead the country during a transitional period until a date is set for presidential and parliamentary elections."

    In Saleh's absence, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen's vice president, has come under  pressure from the parliamentary opposition and the West to assume power, while protesters demand that he form an interim ruling council.

    But Hadi's grip on power is seen as shaky as Saleh's relatives continue to run the country's elite military divisions.

    In the southern city of Taiz, protesters chanted slogans against Saudi Arabia, which is suspected of trying to prevent regime change in Yemen.

    "Tell Saudi Arabia that Yemen is a republic," the crowd sang, and "Yemen is not Bahrain".

    Saudi troops were deployed in Bahrain to help repress a pro-democracy protest movement in February and March.

    Anti-government demonstrations also took place in Saada in the north, and in Hadramawt province in the southeast.

    'Dwindling' support

    Witnesses said Friday saw one of the weakest shows of Saleh's support in Sanaa since rallies started in February.

    Tens of thousands of people vowing to remain loyal to Saleh in southern Sanaa, carried Saleh portraits and voiced support for the president, his son and two nephews Tariq and Ammar.

    Tariq heads Saleh's private guard and Ammar runs the state security service.

    The country's military has already been fractured by the uprising, with hundreds of members breaking away to the opposition.

    Until now the Republican Guards and other elite units that are the best trained and equipped in the country have appeared to largely remain loyal, leading the fight against Saleh's opposition.

    However, military officials told the AP news agency on Friday that Saleh's son Ahmed had arrested dozens of military officers from the Republican Guard suspected of turning against his wounded father.

    The arrests hinted at growing dissent within one of the key units that Saleh has relied on most to retain power.

    Meanwhile, tensions remained high around the southern province of Zinjibar, where suspected al-Qaeda fighters have taken control of at least three cities during the country's uprising.

    Soldiers defending the Al-Wahda stadium outside the city exchanged fire with fighters on Friday, a military source said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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