US urges Yemen opposition to avoid "provocation"

The US relies heavily on Prez Saleh to help combat Qaeda`s Yemen-based arm.

Sana’a: The US embassy in Yemen called on opposition groups on Saturday to refrain from "provocative action" and talk to the government following large street protests in the impoverished Arab country.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis took part in peaceful protests for and against the government on Thursday during an opposition-led "Day of Rage”, a day after President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to step down in 2013.

"We strongly urge the opposition parties to avoid provocative actions and respond constructively to President Saleh`s initiative to resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation," the US embassy said on its website.

"We call on all parties to continue the national dialogue and return to the negotiating table to reach an agreement that will be welcomed by, and best serve, the Yemeni people."

The opposition drew more than 20,000 people in Sana’a, the biggest crowd since a wave of demonstrations hit the poor Arabian Peninsula state two weeks ago, inspired by protests that toppled Tunisia`s ruler and threaten Egypt`s president.

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

"We continue to urge Yemeni security organisations and demonstrators to refrain from violence and for the government to respect its citizens` right to peaceful assembly and expression," the embassy said, adding there were a few outbreaks of violence despite security forces` restraint.

US President Barack Obama urged Saleh in a telephone call on Wednesday to follow up on his reform measures with "concrete actions”. Obama also told Saleh it was "imperative that Yemen take forceful action" against al Qaeda.

The United States relies heavily on Saleh to help combat al Qaeda`s Yemen-based arm, which also targets neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world`s top oil exporter. Instability in Yemen would present serious political and security risks for Gulf states.

Bureau Report