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Yemeni police block protesters’ march on palace

By Reuters
Sunday, February 13, 2011 16:39 EDT
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SANAA (Reuters) – Anti-government protesters clashed with police blocking them from marching to Yemen’s presidential palace in Sanaa on Sunday, witnesses said.

The clashes occurred while President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the main opposition group were preparing for talks that the government hoped would help avert an Egyptian-style revolt in the Arabian Peninsula state, a vital U.S. ally against al Qaeda.

Saleh decided to postpone a visit to the United States planned for later this month “due to the current circumstances in the region,” the state news agency Saba said without elaborating.

About 1,000 people attended the demonstration shouting “the Yemeni people want the fall of the regime” and “a Yemeni revolution after the Egyptian revolution,” before dozens broke off to march to the palace.

In the harshest response yet to a wave of protests in the capital, police prevented the smaller group from reaching the palace, hitting them with batons, while protesters threw rocks at the police, witnesses said. Four people were injured.

Anti-government protests have gained momentum in Yemen in recent weeks, inspired by protests in Tunisia and Egypt, and prompted Saleh to offer significant concessions to calm tensions, including a pledge to step down in 2013.

Many of the Sanaa protests, including a “Day of Rage” on February 3 attended by tens of thousands of opposition and pro-government demonstrators, ended peacefully.

Although pro- and anti-government protesters have clashed in recent days, police have generally stayed out of the fray in Sanaa. They have clamped down more firmly outside the capital.

Opposition officials said 10 protesters were briefly detained in Sanaa on Sunday and 120 more were taken into custody overnight in the city of Taiz after protests on Saturday.

Instability in Yemen would present serious political and security risks for Gulf states. The United States relies heavily on Saleh to help combat al Qaeda’s Yemen-based arm, which also carries out attacks in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

In the south, where the government faces al Qaeda and secessionist militants, a court sentenced six men to death for kidnappings and armed attacks on police, Saba said.

RIGHTS CRITICISM

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch criticized Yemen for allowing government supporters to assault, intimidate and sometimes clash with protesters calling on Saleh to quit.

“The Yemeni authorities have a duty to permit and protect peaceful demonstrations,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the security forces and armed thugs appear to be working together.”

There was no immediate response from Yemeni officials.

Saleh, in power for more than three decades and concerned about unrest in some parts of the Arab world, said more than a week ago he would step down when his term ends in 2013 and pledged his son would not take over the reins of government.

U.S. President Barack Obama has urged Saleh to follow up his pledges of reform with concrete action.

The offer, which included an invitation to dialogue, was Saleh’s boldest gambit yet to avoid a showdown with protesters in the poverty-stricken country, where some 40 percent live on less than $2 a day, while a third suffer from chronic hunger.

“The opposition does not reject what came in the invitation by the president and is ready to sign an agreement in no more than a week,” said former Foreign Minister Mohammed Basindwa, now an opposition politician.

Another opposition official said the talks should start within days. Yemen’s opposition, which wants the talks to take place under Western or Gulf auspices, has said it is seeking assurances reforms would be implemented.

Saleh, a shrewd political survivor, has backed out of previous promises to step aside. Analysts say his concessions could be a genuine way to exit gracefully but he may hope to wait out regional unrest and reassert his dominance another day.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Mokhashaf in Aden; Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Firouz Sedarat; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

Source: Reuters US Online Report Top News

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  • Anonymous

    “The Yemeni authorities have a duty to permit and protect peaceful demonstrations,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the security forces and armed thugs appear to be acting like US police and security forces, beating the living shit out of peaceful demonstrators.”

  • Anonymous

    No matter how hard they try they can’t stop it now……..

  • Anonymous

    Let’s see. Another Middle Eastern country with a ruler whose been in power for 20 years and they’re a “a vital U.S. ally against al Qaeda”. We better act quick or we’ll lose another friend. Plus a real nice place to park our battle ships.

  • Anonymous

    Yikes

    2011 isn’t turning out to be a very good year for dictators, is it ?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/6EX2KJ7LSZMDCBZWCH62Q7CABY Sandra

    Your attempt at cohesion is sloppy.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/6EX2KJ7LSZMDCBZWCH62Q7CABY Sandra

    The US is attempting to rally non US supported countries to oust their leaders. They are using Facebook and Twitter to do it. This is a two birds with one stone attempt to take out unfriendly leaders and push internet control at the same time.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3NVQSZZC5IM66JEOCSFJUV7FCE Jacques G

    This needs to continue in this fashion, peaceful DEMONSTRATIONS by the progressive-thinking serments of the populations that bring to light the opressive and absurdly abusive nature of each of these regimes. So far, it is the progressive SECULAR segment of these countries that is leading the charge, which is a good thing for the people as well as the western nations. Religious fanaticism appears NOT to be a component of these peoples’ uprisings and if america doesn’t meddle, it should continue so. It is imperative the US acknowledge these struggles and supports them, but DOES NOT influence in any way unless they ask as appears is the case with Yemen. Egypt wants to continue relations with the US, BUT not on America’s terms, but in cooperative spirit, a big difference from the US manipulated Mubarak regime. I hope every opressed populace awakens and takes its future into its own hands. I would love to see Iran reformed in the people’s desires. Religions are the bain of civilization.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3NVQSZZC5IM66JEOCSFJUV7FCE Jacques G

    That will only happen when people get out from behind their keyboards and tweeting and actually get out and MARCH or BOYCOTT, like they are doing in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen, on the corporations that are doing them in. The Anti War movement in the 60′s was in the streets. The anti Florida, Colorado, Coors, Anita Bryant, crush homophobic corporations was in the boycott. That’s where Twitter and FB came to power for the Egyptians; triggering Mobilization. Talk is good, action is better.

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