Thousands rally against government in Yemen

Thousands of Yemenis protest in Sanaa, calling for Prez`s ouster after more than 30 years in power.

Sanaa: Tens of thousands of people
are calling for the Yemeni president`s ouster in protests
across the capital inspired by the popular revolt in Tunisia.

The demonstrations led by opposition members and youth
activists are a significant expansion of the unrest sparked by
the Tunisian uprising, which also inspired Egypt`s largest
protests in a generation.

They pose a new threat to the stability of the Arab
world`s most impoverished nation, which has become the focus
of increased Western concern about a resurgent al Qaeda
branch, a northern rebellion and a secessionist movement in
the south.

Crowds in four parts of Sanaa have shut down streets
and are chanting calls for an end to the government of
President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for nearly
32 years.

"We will not accept anything less than the president
leaving," said independent parliamentarian Ahmed Hashid.

Opposition leaders called for more demonstrations

"We`ll only be happy when we hear the words `I
understand you` from the president," Hashid said, invoking a
statement issued by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
before he fled the country.

Saleh has tried to defuse simmering tensions by
raising salaries for the army and by denying opponents` claims
he plans to install his son as his successor.

After the Tunisian turmoil, he ordered income taxes
slashed in half and instructed his government to control
prices. He deployed anti-riot police and soldiers to several
key areas in the capital, Sanaa, and its surroundings to
prevent riots.

That hasn`t stopped critics of his rule from taking to
the streets in days of protests calling for him to step down,
a red line that few dissenters had previously dared to cross.

Nearly half of Yemen`s population lives below the
poverty line of USD 2 a day and doesn`t have access to proper
sanitation. Less than a tenth of the roads are paved. Tens of
thousands have been displaced from their homes by conflict,
flooding the cities.

The government is riddled with corruption, has little
control outside the capital, and its main source of income -
oil - could run dry in a decade.

Saleh`s current term in office expires in 2013 but
proposed amendments to the constitution could let him remain
in power for two additional terms of ten years.