Middle East
Thousands of protesters swell Yemen's streets
Hundreds of thousands of people rally in Sanaa to demand the president stand down, as a soldier is killed in Taez.
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2011 20:17
Both anti- and pro-government protests raged across Yemen as hundreds of thousands took to the streets [Reuters]

Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded Yemen's streets seeking victory against "tyrants," a day after Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's president, said a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) proposal for power transfer should be treated "positively".

"God most merciful, grant us victory in Ramadan," anti-Saleh protesters chanted in Sittine Road, in a western district of the capital Sanaa on Friday afternoon.

"Revolt, revolt to all people against the tyrants," they chanted on what they named the Friday of "achieving victory."

The protesters, who have been demonstrating since January, also called for "building a new Yemen".

Similar protesters took place in the second-largest city Taez, as well as in Ibb, Hudaydah, Saada, Aden and Marib.

Meanwhile, Saleh's supporters rallied in the tens of thousands in Sabiine Square in Sanaa's southern district chanting: "The people want Ali Abdullah Saleh".

The demonstrators carried pictures of the president, who is recovering from bomb blast wounds in Riyadh, and of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, on what they named the Friday of "national alliance to protect constitutional legitimacy.

Soldier killed

Yemen's state news agency reported on Friday that had gunmen attacked a military patrol in Taez, killing a soldier, in a resumption of clashes between loyalists and opponents of Saleh.

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The agency called the Taez attackers "anarchic, lawless elements", without specifying their identity.

Two other soldiers were wounded, it said. 

Taez has been the scene of months of popular protests demanding the removal of Saleh, who survived an assassination attempt in June. 

The protests in the city, 200 km from Sanaa, have split the city into two halves, with one part controlled by government forces and the other by those aligned with tribesmen who want him gone and side with anti-Saleh demonstrators. 

Several ceasefires between the belligerents have collapsed, including one that was to have taken force this week. 

In the southern province of Abyan, where tribesmen and the military are waging a campaign against fighters who have seized swathes of territory, officials said an airstrike had killed 10 Islamist fighters. 

Gulf initiative

On Thursday, it was reported that Saleh was reconsidered a peace plan brokered by the GCC in a possible step towards breaking the country's crippling political deadlock.

Saleh said his General People's Congress (GPC) party stresses the need to "continue to deal positively with the Gulf initiative," the Saba state news agency said.

The president, who has been in office since 1978, and whose term ends in 2013, insisted, however, that the implementation of the Gulf proposal should be done "in accordance with the constitution".

The deal proposed by the GCC in April stipulated that Saleh would submit his resignation to parliament 30 days after passing power to his vice president, and tasking the opposition with forming a national unity government shared equally between the GPC and the opposition.

Presidential elections would follow two months later.

The deal faltered in May after Saleh kept procrastinating over signing it, and then fell away after he was nearly killed in the bomb attack on his Sanaa compound.

Despite his absence, Saleh has not transferred power to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, as family members who lead strong army and security forces continue to run the country.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the United States, which longmade Saleh a key to its counter-terrorism policy, fear chaos in Yemen would embolden Islamist fighters in the country said to be connected to al-Qaeda.

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