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Yemen tense as calls grow for Saleh to quit | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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SANAA (AFP) – Tension simmered in Yemen on Monday after a fruitless meeting with Gulf mediators and violent late night demonstrations in Sanaa.

The streets of the capital appeared quiet on Monday following overnight clashes with security forces, an AFP correspondent reported.

Late on Sunday, hundreds of thousands of men and women protested against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s call for an end to men and women demonstrating together against the regime, and called for his departure.

Security forces soon attacked them, opening fire and shooting tear gas grenades, leaving 30 people injured by live rounds and 1,000 suffering from suffocation, an AFP video reporter quoted a medical source at a Sanaa hospital as saying.

Security forces also used water cannons to disperse demonstrators as police cars carried away many wounded protesters, witnesses told AFP.

Early on Monday, residents took to the streets in the Red Sea city of Al-Hudaydah to protest against the use of force against Sanaa demonstrators.

Similar demonstrations in solidarity with the Sanaa protests were also held late on Sunday in other cities across Yemen — Taez and Dhamar, south of the capital, and the main southern city of Aden.

After a meeting in Riyadh with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states ministers, leading Common Forum opposition activist Mohammed al-Sabri told AFP on Monday: “The opposition has succeeded in conveying its point of view to Gulf Arab monarchies” on the necessity of Saleh’s departure.

Arab Gulf monarchies “must understand that every day Saleh’s regime remains in power will be on the account of their stability”, added Sabri.

Speaking late Sunday after the Riyadh talks between Yemen’s opposition and Gulf ministers, Sultan al-Atwani of the Unionist Nasserist Party said: “We demand the abdication” of Saleh.

“We favour the Gulf initiative … but we reject the paragraph in the final communique of the April 10 GCC foreign ministers’ meeting proposing a transfer of presidential powers, we demand the abdication” of the president, he said.

On April 10, the GCC — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — appealed to Saleh to “announce the transfer of his powers to the vice-president,” Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

It also called for the formation in Yemen of “a government of national unity led by the opposition” which would be responsible for “establishing a constitution and organising elections”.

US and European diplomats have over the past week been working to bring the opposition and Saleh’s camp together, a Western diplomat told AFP.

“The Common Forum has obtained American and European assurances on the success of the GCC initiative, especially for a rapid departure of President Saleh”, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But Sabri said that the parliamentary opposition does not represent the demonstrators, apparently fearful of the reaction of protesters on the streets who have suffered more than 125 deaths in clashes with Saleh’s security forces.

A statement issued after the meeting in the Saudi capital said the GCC would hold discussions with the government in Sanaa, but did not specify a date.

Saleh’s office last week said in response to the mediation bid of the six-nation GCC he has “no reservation about transferring power peacefully and smoothly within the framework of the constitution”.

Saleh has so far insisted on overseeing any transition, fearful of being dumped out of office and faced with prosecution like his ally, Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted on February 11 following mass demonstrations.