Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Saleh of Yemen Slow to Resign, Death Toll Mounts

Protest continued today in Yemen

Yemen's veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he supports "peaceful" and "constitutional" change as nine more people were killed Wednesday with no let up in protests demanding his ouster.

Four members of the security forces and a protester were killed in violence across the country's restive south, officials and medical sources said as anti-Saleh demonstrators vowed they will not stop their agitation.

"We are not against change as long as it is done by democratic and peaceful means, within the constitution, and with respect to the people's will," Saleh said Wednesday in a statement carried by the state news agency, Saba.

Saleh also accused his opponents of attempting a "coup against democracy and the constitution."

The embattled leader's comments came after the president and opposition agreed yesterday to sign a landmark deal in coming days for an orderly transition and end three months of unrest that has killed more than 135 people.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is brokering the transition deal, said their foreign ministers would meet in Riyadh on Sunday to work out the modalities of their plan for Yemen.

"Riyadh will host on Sunday an extraordinary meeting for the Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers to continue the procedures for the adoption of the GCC initiative," the Gulf Arab grouping said in a statement.

The six-nation GCC had proposed the formation of a government of national unity in Yemen, Saleh transferring power to his vice president, and an end to deadly protests rocking the impoverished country.

But the protesters rejected "any initiative from any party," in a statement late Tuesday.

"We are not concerned with any side that accepts the GCC initiative. We affirm to the world that we will continue to escalate our peaceful street protests until the regime falls and the aims of the revolt are achieved," the statement said.

Under the GCC initiative, the president would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, with a presidential election being held within two months.

However, a defiant Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has publicly insisted on sticking to the constitution in any transfer of power, even though the his General People's Congress party has said it accepts the GCC plan.

In the main southern city of Aden, two policemen and a protester were killed in a gunfight Wednesday, a security official and medics told AFP.

Medics said three protesters were also wounded in the fighting.

Separately in another southern province, Abyan, Al-Qaeda gunmen killed two soldiers and wounded three others on Wednesday, a security official told AFP.

Another security official said the network's militants have also seized two government buildings -- intelligence and a criminal investigations headquarters -- on Tuesday.

Abyan is considered a stronghold of Osama bin Laden's local jihadist network, AQAP.

Last month, at least 150 people were killed in a massive blast and fire at an ammunition plant looted by Al-Qaeda in Abyan.

Washington has expressed fears that Al-Qaeda could take advantage of a prolonged political crisis in Yemen.

The 69-year-old president has been a close US ally in Washington's fight against Al-Qaeda.

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