|Tens of thousands of demonstrators demanded the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh [AFP]
The UN Security Council has passed a resolution calling on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to end deadly attacks on anti-government protesters and step down.
The resolution, unanimously agreed by the 15 members on Friday, "strongly condemns" government violence against demonstrators and backs a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) peace plan under which Saleh would end his 33 years in power.
Several hundred people have been killed since protests against Saleh erupted in January.
The Security Council's strongest pronouncement yet on the Yemen crisis called on Saleh to keep a promise to immediately sign the GCC plan, paving the way for a peaceful power transition "without further delay".
Following the resolution, the United States called for the transfer of power to begin "immediately".
"The international community sent a clear, unified message that the time has come for President Saleh to allow the Yemeni people to live free from violence and insecurity," State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said in a
Saleh has said he agrees to the plan by the six Gulf states but has refused to sign it or implement any of its provisions.
Call for pressure
|For more on Yemen, visit our Spotlight page
The resolution is less than what was demanded in New York by Yemeni protest leader Tawakul Karman, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month.
Karman was outside the Security Council for the vote and she called for international pressure on Saleh.
"Dictatorships are going down and are done," she said before the meeting.
Karman met on Wednesday with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the UN, and other top diplomats to reiterate her demands.
Ban told Karman the United Nations had "a clear stance against impunity for gross human rights violations," the UN press office said in a statement.
On Friday, tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of the Yemeni capital to demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, galvanised by the death of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.
"Ali, it's your turn next, yours and Bashar's," the protesters chanted, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, another regional leader facing "Arab Spring"-style protests.
"Every dictator meets his end," they chanted as they marched through the centre of Sanaa under the protection of dissident troops who have switched their loyalties to the anti-government protesters.
"Gaddafi's death has fired up revolutionaries across the world, but especially in Yemen," said Walid al-Ammari, a spokesman for the youth activists who have spearheaded nine months of protests against Saleh's rule.
"Saleh must draw the lessons from the death of Gaddafi who called the Libyans rats and was finally caught like a rat in a tunnel," he told AFP.
As on most Fridays, the president's supporters held a counter-demonstration after weekly prayers in Sabine Square in the south of the city, which is controlled by loyalist troops.