Friday "million march" in Yemen as Prez in talks for exit

Last Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2011 - 00:52

Dubai: Yemen appeared to be nearing a
brink on Friday as protesters staged a "million people" march onto
the capital Sanaa after Friday prayers, amid reports that a
shaky President Ali Abdullah Saleh was engaged in serious
negotiations to time an exit.

Truckloads of anti-Saleh protesters poured into Sanaa,
while the supporters of the beleaguered President attempted to
stage a counter rally, raising the prospects of a bloody
confrontation.

Al-Jazeera quoting witnesses said, that loyalists
forces from the Republican guards were out on the streets with
tanks and bazokas to prevent anti-government supporters from
entering the city.

Replicating the Egyptian million strong rally which
proved to be the final nail in former dictator Hosni Mubarak`s
coffin, the Yemeni protesters carrying huge posters calling
for Saleh to quit and labelled their march as "Friday of
Departure".

During the rally, protesters have threatened to march
to Presidential palace, raising fears of a possible repeat of
the previous Friday when 52 demonstrators were gunned down by
regime loyalists. The international rights group have warned
the government against any renewed use of "deadly force".

Yemen is already under a state of emergency declared
by Saleh just hours after bloodbath in Sanaa. The
Chanting "no dialogue and no initiative" for this
"dead regime" opposition spokesperson Mohammad al-Sabri
dismissed dismissed Saleh`s offer to step down.

The defecting general Ali-Mohsen has thrown his weight
behind the protesters and vowed that his troops will protect
the marchers.

Taking a defiant posture, President Saleh went live on
television, throwing scorn on anti-government protesters,
while offering amnesty to military defectors if they returned
to the government side.

Al-Jazeera said Saleh had spoken to the defecting
general on Wednesday night but, Mohsen spurned an offer to
return and later publicly said "military rule in the Arab
world is outdated."

New York Times said, as the four week old protest
movement appeared to be gaining momentum, the president is
engaged in serious negotiations over the timing in conditions
for the end of his 32-year-old rule.

Quoting top level Yemeni and American official, the
Times said, "the general assumption is that his (Saleh) days
are numbered."

The paper said, Saleh seems determined to decide the
number himself, adding that the discussion about his exit were
not just talks in a room, but negotiations involving
representatives of 20 or more Yemeni factions and interest
groups.

The talks are being closely monitored by
representative of Saudi Arabia, Yemen`s wealthy northern
neighbour and the US embassy in Sanaa.

"We want to express support for transition and concern
about our security issues," a senior American official said.
"But we dont want to take sides".

PTI



First Published: Saturday, March 26, 2011 - 00:52

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