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Posts Tagged ‘Ali Abdullah Saleh’

Fighting turns southern Yemen town into “hell”

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2011

Ali Abdullah Saleh

Ali Abdullah Saleh

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110608/wl_nm/us_yemen

By Mohammed Mukhashaf and Asma Alsharif Wed Jun 8, 1:42 pm ET

ADEN/JEDDAH (Reuters) – Bodies lay in the streets of a southern Yemeni town Wednesday as government forces battled Islamist militants, a local official said, underscoring the gravity of Yemen’s multiple conflicts.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, 69, wounded Friday when rockets hit his palace, is having treatment in the Saudi capital Riyadh but there were conflicting reports about his condition — ranging from fairly minor, to life-threatening 40-percent burns.

A truce between his forces and tribesmen who back pro-democracy protesters was holding in Sanaa. Western and Arab powers have been working to persuade Saleh to stay away and allow a long-negotiated transition of power to begin.

Saleh has left a country in crisis, with Yemeni civilians bearing the brunt of fighting. Medical staff are having trouble reaching the wounded, and electricity and water are scarce, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

Some 20 bodies have been retrieved in and around Sanaa since Saturday by ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent teams, including seven Tuesday in al-Hassaba, north of the capital, the ICRC said.

“Because of the fighting, it has often been difficult for medical personnel to reach certain parts of Sanaa,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen.

The U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) said Yemenis are going hungry as the fighting disrupts food supplies and pushes up the price of gas, water, fuel and other basic commodities.

“There is a sharp deterioration of the food security situation in Yemen,” WFP’s representative in Yemen Gian Carlo Cirri told Reuters in an interview. “We are close to food prices having doubled on average since last year when it comes to key commodities such as wheat flour, vegetable oil and sugar.”

Sanaa was calm in Saleh’s absence, with a ceasefire holding between government forces and tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the powerful Hashed tribal confederation, who have turned against the president.

More than 200 people have been killed and thousands have fled Sanaa in the last two weeks as fighting intensified.

Al-Ahmar’s men withdrew from around seven government buildings, including the state news agency Saba which suffered heavily in fighting last week.

But many government ministries were not functioning as staff stayed away Wednesday and much of the city was suffering from cuts in electricity, fuel and water supplies.

GUNFIRE AND BLOOD

Officials and residents described dire scenes in the southern Abyan province where the army and Islamist militants have fought for days, causing thousands of residents to flee.

“There is a cat-and-mouse game going on in the streets now between the army and armed men. I can’t tell who’s who among them any more,” said resident Khaled Abboud by telephone. “There is a smell of gunfire and blood in the air. I only stayed to protect my home, but now I want to get out of this hell.”

The fighting has reduced Zinjibar, once home to more than 50,000 people, to a ghost town without power or running water.

Health official Alhadar Alsaidi said disease was spreading from dead bodies on the streets and wild dogs eating them. “I call on local and international health organizations to help us removing bodies from the streets and burying them,” he said.

The Yemeni army said this week it had killed 30 militants in Zinjibar, where a local official said 15 soldiers had also died in battles for the town seized by gunmen nearly two weeks ago.

Some of Saleh’s opponents have accused the president of deliberately letting al Qaeda militants take over Zinjibar to demonstrate the security risks if he were to lose power.

The volatile situation in Yemen, which lies on oil shipping lanes, alarms Western nations and neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia, who fear that chaos would give al Qaeda free rein there.

They see Saleh’s absence as an opportunity to secure his exit after nearly 33 years ruling the poorest Arab state.

The United States and Britain have called for a peaceful, orderly transition in Yemen, based on a Gulf-brokered plan.

There was no clear word on Saleh’s health.

“I visited him yesterday evening and he was good. He talked to us and asked about the Yemeni expatriates and he is better than the others who were injured. He is very good and talks. He was sitting on a chair,” said Taha al-Hemyari, head of Yemeni community affairs at the Yemeni embassy in Riyadh.

A Saudi doctor familiar with Saleh’s case also said his burns were not as serious as some officials suggested, saying he may be able to leave Saudi Arabia in less than two weeks.

SEVERE BURNS?

The Yemeni embassy in Washington said in a statement Saleh’s health was improving and reiterated that his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was in charge in a caretaker capacity.

“President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s health condition is stable and continues to improve… President Saleh will return to Yemen … to reassume his duties soon after he recovers,” it said.

Yemeni and U.S. officials said Tuesday that Saleh was in a more serious condition with burns over roughly 40 percent of his body. Saudi newspaper al-Watan cited a Yemeni diplomat on Wednesday as saying another operation on Saleh was possible.

Saleh was initially said to have been hit by shrapnel and Hadi said Monday the president would return within days.

Forty percent burns would mean Saleh’s life could be in danger: “Somebody of that age, with that percentage of burns, has got a pretty poor prognosis, especially if these are full thickness burns,” Brendan Eley, chief executive of the Healing Foundation at Britain’s Royal College of Surgeons.

Saudi officials say it is up to Saleh whether he returns home but they, and their Western allies, may want to revive a Gulf-brokered transition deal under which the Yemeni leader would quit in return for immunity from prosecution.

Yemen said a donation of three million barrels of crude oil from Saudi King Abdullah had arrived in Aden Wednesday.

Thousands of protesters, who have been in the streets since February demanding Saleh quit, gathered at his vice president’s residence Tuesday. They want him formally to assume power in order to effect Saleh’s final removal from office.

Troops loyal to army general Ali Mohsen, who has sided with the protesters, shot into the air in an effort to persuade them to leave, but the activists stayed put.

(Additional reporting by Martina Fuchs, Mohammed Ghobari, Reem Shamseddine, Kate Kelland and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay; writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Alastair Macdonald)

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Thousands of Yemenis protest for Saleh to stay out

Posted by Admin on June 7, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110607/wl_nm/us_yemen

By Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf 22 mins ago

SANAA (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the Yemeni vice president’s residence on Tuesday, demanding the acting leader for wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh form a transitional council to create a new government.

Outside the peaceful protest in the capital of Sanaa, battles raged in a southern town held by Islamist militants.

Around 4,000 demonstrators in Sanaa, who have been calling for Saleh to step down for five months, called for a “million-man march” for him to stay in Saudi Arabia, where he has been treated for injuries since an attack on Friday.

“The people want to form a transitional council, we will not sleep, we will not sit until the council is formed,” the protesters chanted.

Protesters carried banners saying “The blood of the liberated achieved victory,” while others waved banners saying “Our revolution is Yemeni, not Gulf or American.”

“We will remain in front of the residence of the vice president for 24 hours to pressure him for the formation of a transitional council,” youth activist Omar al-Qudsi said.

“The era of Saleh has ended,” he told Reuters.

Saleh, 69, was wounded on Friday when rockets struck his Sanaa palace, killing seven people and wounding senior officials and advisers in what his officials said was an assassination attempt. He is being treated in a Riyadh hospital.

The volatile situation in Yemen, which lies on vital oil shipping lanes, alarms Western powers and neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia, who fear that chaos would enable the local al Qaeda franchise to operate more freely there.

They see Saleh’s absence for medical treatment in Riyadh as an opportunity to ease the president out of office after nearly 33 years ruling the impoverished Arab nation.

“We are calling for a peaceful and orderly transition,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called Vice President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, appointed by Saleh as acting president, and pushed for a ceasefire.

Hadi has insisted that Saleh would return within days.

Saudi officials say it is up to Saleh whether he returns home or not, but they and their Western allies may want to revive a Gulf-brokered transition deal under which the Yemeni leader would quit in return for immunity from prosecution.

“Saleh’s departure is probably permanent,” said Robert Powell, Yemen analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“The Saudis, as well as the U.S. and European Union, are pushing hard for him to stay in Saudi Arabia, as they view the prospect of his return as a catastrophe.

“Prior to his departure, the country was slipping inexorably into a civil war. However, his removal has suddenly opened a diplomatic window to restart the seemingly failed GCC-mediated proposal. It seems Saudi Arabia and other interested parties are unwilling to allow Saleh to derail it this time.”

CLASHES IN SOUTH

Saudi Arabia is worried by the activities of the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has staged daring if not very effective attacks on Saudi and U.S. targets.

The army said it had killed dozens of Islamist militants including a local al Qaeda leader in the southern town of Zinjibar, capital of the flashpoint Abyan province.

A local official said 15 soldiers had been killed in the battles for control of the town seized by militants some 10 days ago.

Some of Saleh’s opponents have accused the president of deliberately letting AQAP militants take over Zinjibar to demonstrate the security risks if he lost power.

The fighting has reduced Zinjibar, once home to more than 50,000 people, to a ghost town without power or running water.

Fighting also flared again in the city of Taiz, south of Sanaa, where anti-government gunmen have clashed sporadically with troops in the past few days.

A Saudi-brokered truce was holding in the capital after two weeks of fighting between Saleh’s forces and tribesmen in which more than 200 people were killed and thousands forced to flee.

POWER TRANSFER

Saleh has defied pressure to accept the transition plan brokered by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Three times, he has backed away from signing it at the last minute.

“The transition seems to be on track as per the GCC initiative. There will be many obstacles down the road, but without Saleh’s destructive presence, we can overcome them,” said Yemeni political analyst Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani.

The future of Yemen, where shifting alliances of tribal leaders, generals and politicians compete for power, is uncertain. Saleh’s sons and relatives remain in the country, commanding elite military units and security agencies.

Other contenders in a possible power struggle include the well-armed Hashed tribal federation, breakaway military leaders, Islamists, leftists and an angry public seeking relief from crippling poverty, corruption and failing public services.

Youthful protesters have been celebrating Saleh’s departure, but are wary of any attempt by the wily leader to return.

“In the near term, the biggest challenge is to set up a viable political reform process that has the general backing of the population, and allows Yemen to return to normal after months of unrest,” the EIU’s Powell said.

“In the medium term, Yemen’s biggest challenge is economic — already the poorest country in the Middle East, it is running out of oil and water, and unless it can find alternative drivers of growth an economic collapse is entirely feasible,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Nour Merza in Dubai, Arshad Mohammed in Washington and Alistair Lyon in London; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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Saudi Arabia brokers new truce in Yemen: Saudi source

Posted by Admin on June 5, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110604/wl_nm/us_yemen;_ylt=AkB46xdRf6XpfNqkl7K..d9vaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTI5djdoMW0wBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwNjA0L3VzX3llbWVuBGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BHNsawNzYXVkaWFyYWJpYWI-

SANAA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has brokered a fresh truce between a powerful Yemeni tribal federation and forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Saudi source said on Saturday, and a tribal leader said his followers were abiding by it.

A Saudi-brokered truce agreed a week ago held for only a day before fresh street battles broke out in the capital Sanaa, leading to the most intense fighting there since the uprising against Saleh’s 32-year role began.

Broadcasters Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, citing Yemeni and Saudi sources, said Saleh was on his way to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, a day after suffering head wounds in a shelling attack on a mosque in the presidential compound, but Yemen’s deputy information minister denied the reports.

Seven people were killed when what appeared to be rockets hit the presidential palace and several government officials were wounded. Saleh blamed a tribal federation for the assault.

“The rocket was devastating. It was a clear assassination attempt against the president,” said Abdulla Ali al-Radhi, Yemen’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.

The BBC reported that the attack left Saleh with shrapnel near his heart and second-degree burns to his chest and face. It said sources close to the president had told the broadcaster Saleh had a piece of shrapnel almost 7.6 cm long under his heart.

Four months into a deadly revolt, worries are mounting that Yemen, already on the brink of financial ruin and home to al Qaeda militants, could become a failed state that poses a threat to the world’s top oil exporting region and to global security.

Saleh’s forces retaliated by shelling the homes of the leaders of the Hashed tribal federation, which has been engaged in street fights with his forces. Spokesmen for the group said 10 tribesmen were killed and dozens injured while denying responsibility for the palace attack.

A growing number of people in Saleh’s inner circle feel the attack may have carried out by General Ali Mohsen who has broken from Saleh, sided with the protesters and called the president a “madman who is thirsty for more bloodshed.”

An expert on Yemen with close ties to Sanaa’s leadership said: “Nobody could have done this with such military precision other than a military man.”

Global powers have been pressing Saleh to sign a Gulf-brokered deal to end his 33-year rule. Leaving Yemen, even for medical care, would make it hard for Saleh to retain power and could be seen as the first step in a transfer of leadership.

A Yemeni official told Reuters that Saleh “had suffered minor wounds to his head and I believe his face.”

“It’s not easy for the president. He has lost people close to him and who were sitting next to him when it happened,” the official said.

Saleh has exasperated his former U.S. and Saudi allies, who once saw him as a key partner in efforts to combat Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Defying world pressure, Saleh has thrice reneged on a deal brokered by Gulf states for him to quit in return for immunity from prosecution, even as he haemorrhages support at home.

‘BULLETS EVERYWHERE’

Residents in Sanaa faced worsening fears after fighting between the Hashed tribal federation and Saleh’s forces spread to new parts of the divided capital on Friday, prompting a fresh exodus of war-weary civilians.

Tensions in the flashpoint of Taiz, about 200 km (120 miles) south, eased after police and military units withdrew from the city following a week of clashes with pro-reform demonstrators that left dozens dead.

The U.N. human rights chief was checking reports that more than 50 people had been killed in Taiz since Sunday.

Nearly 200 people have been killed in the capital in the past two weeks as street battles using machineguns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades shuttered shops and forced Sanaa’s airport to ground flights twice.

Sanaa roads were clogged when the sun rose by civilians fleeing violence that has engulfed more of the city.

“Bullets are everywhere, explosions terrified us. There’s no chance to stay any more,” said Sanaa resident Ali Ahmed.

Spain said it was evacuating its citizens and diplomats in Yemen, while Germany ordered the temporary closure of its embassy, adding to the number of countries shutting the doors on their diplomatic missions in Sanaa due to the fighting.

At least 420 people have been killed since the uprising against Saleh began in January, inspired by the movements in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled their long-standing leaders.

The battles are being fought on several fronts, with popular protests in several cities and military units breaking away from Saleh to protect the protesters.

There has also been a week-long campaign in Zinjibar by locals and Saleh’s soldiers to oust Islamist and al Qaeda militants who seized the southern coastal city near a shipping lane where about 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed al-Ramahi in Sanaa, Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden, Khaled al-Mahdi in Taiz, Mahmoud Habboush in Dubai, Samia Nakhoul in London, Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin and the Madrid bureau; writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Tim Paerce)

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Yemen on brink of civil war as clashes spread

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110527/wl_nm/us_yemen

By Samia Nakhoul and Mohammed Ghobari Fri May 27, 4:16 pm ET

SANAA (Reuters) – Yemeni tribesmen said they wrested a military compound from elite troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside the capital Sanaa on Friday as fighting spread, threatening to tip the country into civil war.

Yemeni fighter jets broke the sound barrier as they swooped over Sanaa, where battles between Saleh loyalists and the Hashed tribal alliance led by Sadeq al-Ahmar erupted this week after failure of a deal to ease the president out.

Clashes spread northeast of Sanaa on Friday, where tribes said in addition to seizing a military post in the Nahm region, they were also fighting government troops at two other positions south of the capital.

In Sanaa, tens of thousands of people gathered after Friday prayers for what they branded a “Friday of Peaceful Revolution” against Saleh, releasing white doves and carrying the coffins of about 30 people killed in clashes this week.

Tens of thousands turned out for the rally, inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, though their numbers had dwindled compared to previous weeks after thousands fled Sanaa and the government closed roads around the city to keep out tribes trying to reinforce the Ahmars.

Machinegun fire and sporadic blasts rattled the city before fighting eased after mediation efforts. Ahmar’s fighters evacuated government ministry buildings they had grabbed this week in return for a ceasefire and troops quitting their area.

“We are now in mediation and there has been a ceasefire between the two sides,” Ahmar, close to an Islamist opposition party, told protesters in “Change Square.” “But if Ali Abdullah Saleh returns (to fighting) then we are ready. We are steadfast and victorious.”

“We wanted it (revolution) to be peaceful but Saleh, his sons and his clique wanted war. We will not leave them the opportunity to turn it into a civil war,” Ahmar told Reuters.

But in a sign of hostility between the sides, a government source ridiculed Ahmar for his grandiose statements, saying the state had taught him a “small lesson” and urging him and “his gangs” to turn themselves in to face justice.

Battles this week, the worst since protests began in January, killed around 115 people and let Saleh grab back the initiative, overshadowing the protest movement with the threat of civil war. Yet protesters were determined to see him go.

“We are here to renew our resolve for a peaceful revolution. We reject violence or being dragged into civil war,” said Yahya Abdulla at the anti-Saleh protest camp, where armed vehicles were deployed to protect those praying.

A few kilometres (miles) away, government loyalists staged a short rally, waving Yemeni flags and pictures of Saleh, who has ruled the Arabian Peninsula state for nearly 33 years.

Worries are growing that Yemen, already a safe haven for al Qaeda and on the verge of financial ruin, could become a failed state that would erode regional security and pose a serious risk to neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of foiled attacks by a wing of al Qaeda based in Yemen, are concerned any spread of anarchy could embolden the militant group.

BATTLE AT MILITARY COMPOUND

In Nahm, 100 km (60 miles) northeast of Sanaa, a tribal leader said fierce fighting over three military posts killed 19 and wounded dozens. He said tribesmen had seized one post and were battling for two more as military planes bombed the area.

“There had been some skirmishes between the tribesmen supporting the youth revolution from time to time, but today it became a big armed confrontation,” Sheikh Hamid Asim said.

He had earlier said anti-Saleh fighters killed the commander of the military post they seized. A separate tribal source said the Yemeni air force dropped bombs to prevent the tribesmen from seizing an arms cache there.

The defense ministry blamed the opposition coalition, comprised of Islamists and leftists, for the fighting in Nahm. State television, citing a military source, denied any posts were seized. “These are lies with no basis in truth,” Yemen TV quoted him as saying.

If confirmed, the Republican Guard’s loss of a military post to tribesmen armed with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades would be an embarrassing setback for Saleh, whose country has become the poorest in the region.

Mediators have been increasingly exasperated with Saleh, saying he had repeatedly imposed new conditions each time a Gulf-led transition agreement was due for signing, mostly recently demanding a public signing ceremony.

Leaders of the G8 leading industrialized nations called on Saleh to step down during a summit in France, but analysts said global powers have little leverage in Yemen, located on a shipping lane through which 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.

FEAR OF CIVIL WAR

Sanaa residents had been streaming out of the capital by the thousands to escape escalating violence in recent days. Others stocked up on essentials and waited in trepidation.

“There is absolute poverty because of this regime. We want change,” said Abdulrahman al-Fawli, 42, an engineer. “But I’m terrified of civil war. I dread this prospect.”

The recent fighting between tribal fighters and loyalists has ignored a commitment to peaceful demonstrations by protesters, many of whom are sceptical about the vested interests of both sides in the armed conflict.

“Saleh and his forces and the al-Ahmar tribe cannot make the civilian state that the protesters want. They stole the limelight of the revolution and undermined it with their fighting,” said Ali Mohammed Subaihy, a doctor.

In the south, dozens of armed men believed to be from al Qaeda stormed into the city of Zinjibar in the flashpoint province of Abyan, chasing out security forces while seizing several government buildings and setting off blasts in others, residents said.

The army had withdrawn from Zinjibar after a battle with militants in March, but later regained control.

Friday’s violence, which killed at least seven people including a civilian, sent hundreds of families fleeing their neighborhoods as shelling continued and warplanes roared overhead. Smoke billowed from a military building.

Similar clashes broke out in Lawdar, also in the south, a government official said.

Saleh has said his removal would be a boon to al Qaeda, but the opposition, which includes the Islamist party Islah, accuses him of exploiting militancy to keep his foreign backing and argues that it would be better placed to fight al Qaeda.

Washington, which long treated Saleh as an ally against al Qaeda, has said it now wants him to go. Saleh’s attempts to stop protests by force have so far killed around 280 people.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Sudam and Khaled al-Mahdy in Sanaa, Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden, Erika Solomon in Dubai and from Barbara Lewis in Geneva; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Louise Ireland)

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Indians in Yemen asked to leave the country

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2011

http://in.news.yahoo.com/indians-yemen-asked-leave-country-092650143.html

New Delhi, May 27 (ANI): The Ministry of External Affairs has advised Indian nationals living in Yemen to exit the country through whatever commercial means available keeping in view the evolving situation and the increase in violent incidents.

The Indian nationals have also been advised not to venture out except under absolutely unavoidable circumstances till the time they are able to exit from Yemen.

“The Embassy of India and our Ambassador in Yemen will continue to function in Sanaa and can be contacted for any assistance by Indian nationals till such time they are able to exit the country,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) release said.

In the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, gun battles raged on Monday between government forces and fighters loyal to powerful tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar, who has sided with the growing opposition movement that has demanded an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s 32-year-long rule. (ANI)

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Yemen thrust into deeper uncertainty after Gulf deal falls through

Posted by Admin on May 15, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20110513/wl_csm/383902;_ylt=AgmCcA6REr_zMOzYxWmC7SZvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJkYzI3dTZlBGFzc2V0A2NzbS8yMDExMDUxMy8zODM5MDIEcG9zAzMxBHNlYwN5bl9hcnRpY2xlX3N1bW1hcnlfbGlzdARzbGsDeWVtZW50aHJ1c3Rp

Sanaa, Yemen – When demonstrations began in February aimed at toppling long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh, they were of a humble size, filling only the area immediately outside the entrance to Sanaa University, an area now known as Change Square.

Now as the movement enters its fourth month, the sit-in has swollen to a veritable tent city that stretches nearly two miles, shutting off traffic in a large portion of the nation’s capital and resembling a shantytown. Many tents there have a permanent look, wired for electricity, satellite television and, in many cases, wireless Internet service.

Still, the demonstrators seem no closer to achieving their goal. A supposed agreement that would have had Saleh resign, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, appears to have fallen through, with neither the demonstrators nor Saleh willing to support it.

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“How can anything headed by the GCC lead to democracy,” commented Abdulrahman Abdullah al Kamadi, a demonstrator who has been camped out in the square for over two months.

“The emirates and kingdoms of the GCC are the enemy of any revolution. They cannot even admit what is going on here. This is not a political crisis: this is a revolution.”

‘We have no fear of violence’

On Wednesday, gunfire broke out here as army troops loyal to Saleh moved against the demonstrators in what appeared to be an effort to push them back from the huge swath of territory they’ve claimed over the weeks. More than a dozen protesters were killed in the four-hour firefight, but the pro-Saleh forces gained no ground, and protesters were putting up new structures Thursday.

“We have no fear of violence,” said Bassem Moghram, one the leaders of the young people who make up the heart of the protest movement. “Freedom is not cheap.”

Increasing hardship, uncertainty

Where the protest movement will go is uncertain. Similar tent cities have sprung up in other Yemeni cities, and the political turmoil is showing itself in growing hardship for the average Yemeni.

Gas rationing, water shortages and power outages have become commonplace in many parts of the country; and the cost of food has risen, as the value of the Yemeni rial has plunged.

RELATED: As Yemenis run low on gas and food, revolution could take off

Yemen’s oil industry has been particularly affected; with production dropping nearly 50 percent, the result of damaged pipelines and the temporary closure of some oil facilities.

Amir al Aydarous, the country’s oil minister, recently told the state-run news agency that continued unrest could lead to “catastrophe beyond imagination.” Yemen’s modest oil reserves provide nearly 70 percent of the government’s revenues.

A largely leaderless movement

The movement itself remains largely leaderless. While some of the demonstrators are affiliated with opposition parties, most continue to fiercely assert their independence. Images of slain former President Ibrahim al Hamdi, who ran the country from 1974 to 1977, far outnumber images of current opposition leaders.

“We will talk about parties when we are talking about elections,” said Ibrahim Yayha al Kulani. “Until then, we will remain one united front, not differentiating between party, region or sect.”

Various self-described “revolutionary youth committees” have sprouted in different areas of Yemen. Notably, the past weeks have seen growing cooperation between groups in different cities, culminating in the formation this week of a single, nationwide “Media Council of the Revolution.” Another group, the Supreme Coordination Council of the Revolution, has called for a series of marches, strikes and camp expansions, culminating in a march Tuesday on the Presidential Palace.

US role

For its part, the US, for which Saleh has been a key ally in the war on terror, and the European Union remain supportive of the GCC plan, which would grant Saleh immunity from prosecution for the hundreds of deaths suffered in the crackdown on the protests. The young people who’ve remained camped out in protest reject that idea in particular, and many Yemen observers believe the GCC plan is doomed.

“It is a mistake for the United States to continue to let the GCC take the lead on this, both for the future of Yemen as well as for U.S. security interests,” commented Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen scholar at Princeton University. “The US must take the lead in constructively shaping a post-Saleh Yemen.”

Others say the US support for any plan makes it unworkable.

“This is not even just a GCC plan,” said Feris al Areeqi, a professor of engineering at Sanaa University. “This is a GCC-EU-USA plan. How can they intervene positively when they have supported Saleh?”

(Baron is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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Tens of thousands march against Yemen president

Posted by Admin on February 4, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110203/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_yemen

SANAA, Yemen – Tens of thousands of demonstrators, some chanting “down, down with the regime,” marched Thursday in several towns and cities in Yemen against the country’s autocratic president, a key U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic militants.

Police opened fire and tear gas to break up one of the marches, witnesses said, and security officials confirmed a demonstrator was critically wounded by police fire. Two others were also hurt in the eastern town of Mukalla, but further details were not immediately available.

In the capital of Sanaa, scuffles and stone-throwing briefly erupted between thousands of anti-government demonstrators and supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled for more than 30 years. However, police stepped in and there were no reports of injuries.

Security forces deployed in large numbers around the Interior Ministry and the Central Bank, and military helicopters hovered over some parts of the city.

Anti-government protests have erupted in several Arab countries in recent weeks. In Egypt, embattled President Hosni Mubarak is trying to cling to power until the end of his term in September, despite more than a week massive street protests demanding his immediate resignation.

In Yemen, protests erupted in several towns Thursday after Saleh moved earlier this week to defuse demands for his ouster by pledging not to seek another term in 2013 and not to allow his son inherit power.

Anti-government protesters said they don’t trust Saleh and demanded that he quit immediately.

“Thirty years of promises and thirty years of lies,” read one banner raised by marchers in Sanaa. Protesters chanted: “Down, down with the regime.”

In a counter demonstration, supporters of the president carried banners warning that the opposition was trying to destabilize Yemen.

Mohammed al-Sabri, a spokesman for a coalition of opposition groups, said hundreds of thousands took to the streets Thursday. He said the opposition is ready to engage in a dialogue with the president, but wants concrete proposals for change.

“We welcome this decision (not to seek another term), but if the people want the president to leave, we will adopt their demand,” al-Sabri said. “We have had political demands which we discussed with the regime for the past three years, but unfortunately failed.”

He said peaceful protests would continue for the next three months.

The United States has taken a sharp tone on Egypt, urging Mubarak to move swiftly to meet the demand for democratic reform. But it has cautiously praised pledges of reform in Yemen.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Wednesday welcomed Saleh’s “positive statements.”

The Yemeni president is seen as a weak but increasingly important partner of the United States, allowing American drone strikes on al-Qaida targets and stepping up counterterrorism cooperation.

In Brussels, Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, warned that interference from outside countries — of the sort in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan — would be counterproductive.

He said frustration of the young generation was widespread across the Arab world, including in his country. “I think the frustrations of younger generations are universal in the Arab world,” al-Qirbi told The Associated Press in Brussels, where he had come to seek development aid.

However, he said Yemen’s government never severed contacts with opposition parties and civil groups, and for that reason it was better placed to hold a constructive internal dialogue than other countries in the Middle East.

In Yemen, where the population is overwhelmingly very young, unemployment is 35 percent and poverty is endemic. About 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 (euro1.45) a day.

Saleh’s government controls little of the impoverished country beyond the capital; it is facing a serious challenge from a secessionist movement in the south and a rebellion in the north.

The U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, thought to be hiding in Yemen, is believed to have inspired and even plotted or helped coordinate recent attacks on the U.S. Those include the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner and the unsuccessful plot to send mail bombs on planes from Yemen to the U.S. in October.

Al-Awlaki also is believed to have inspired the deadly 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, and had ties to some of the 9/11 hijackers.

In Thursday’s marches, thousands of anti-government protesters also took to the streets in the city of Aden. They defied security forces and armored personnel carriers that tried to close the main streets to prevent them from gathering.

Protesters there shouted: “People want the downfall of the regime, the downfall of the president.”

All big shops in Sanaa and Aden closed their doors and major companies hired guards to protect against possible looting.

Protesters also scuffled with security forces in the town of Jaar in the southern province of Abyan, where al-Qaida militants have been active.

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