YEMEN: Demonstrators clash with government supporters at rally
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Demonstrators and supporters of Yemen’s ruling party headed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh clashed at an anti-government protest in country’s capital Sana on Saturday, a Yemeni journalist told Babylon & Beyond.
Sadeq Wesabi, a reporter at the Yemeni independent daily Yemen Times told Babylon & Beyond that about 200 demonstrators were marching to the Egyptian embassy when backers of the ruling party showed up along with security forces and started to confront the protesters.
‘There were a group of journalists and students and some other people on their way to the Egyptian embassy. A group from the ruling party and national security came and clashed with the demonstrators and beat them,’ Wesabi said.
According to Agence France Presse, demonstrators chanted ‘Ali, leave leave’ and ‘Tunisia left, Egypt after it and Yemen in the coming future,’ and called for the ouster of the Yemeni president in a rally apparently inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian popular uprisings.
Wesabi said activists are planning to stage an anti-government protest next Thursday.
Saturday’s rally comes two days after tens of thousands of Yemenis rallied against perceived political oppression under President Saleh and unemployment in Sana and as the civil revolt in Egypt enters its fifth day.
The unrest in impoverished Yemen worries the U.S., which has been working with the Yemeni government to flush out an Al Qaeda off-shoot.
On Friday night, President Saleh’s party called for talks with the political opposition in a bid to halt the protests and escalating unrest.
‘The meeting discussed the latest developments related to the national dialogue with the Joint Meeting Parties, the opposition, affirming the interest of the ruling party in continuing dialogue as the best way to address various issues,’ said a statement from a committee meeting of Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress, or GPC, carried on the state-run Yemeni news agency Saba.
‘Furthermore, we urge an end to protests that ignite dissent and to avoid dragging the country into conflict or sedition, as we urge to better use rights including freedom of expression’ said the committee,’ it continued.
Media reports say the unrest partly stems from a proposal last year by members of the ruling party to end presidential term limits that would require President Saleh to step down when his term ends in 2013.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut