SANAA, Yemen, (AP) – Yemen, angry over Qatar’s suggestion that its leader resign, recalled its ambassador to the fellow Arabian Peninsula nation on Saturday as hundreds of thousands of Yemeni protesters rallied for a second straight day to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The deaths of four protesters Friday in the southern city of Taiz formed a rallying cry across the country. In Taiz, where about 400 people were injured in the earlier protests, about 100,000 people marched Saturday, blaming the local governor, chief of security and leader of the ruling party for the violence.
More than 120 people have been killed since Feb. 11 in protests inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
The official Yemeni news agency Saba said Yemen’s ambassador to Qatar was recalled for consultation on the recent statement made by Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem about the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council’s offer of mediation between Saleh and the opposition.
The GCC, which includes Qatar, proposed that Saleh hand over power to his deputy in return for immunity from prosecution for him and his family. Bin Jassem, earlier this week, told reporters that “we hope to reach an agreement that includes the resignation” of Saleh.
Saleh rejected the mediation offer in a speech before tens of thousands of cheering supporters in the capital Friday. Saba said the president thanked the GCC leaders for their efforts to solve the crisis through dialogue.
In Taiz, activist Ghazi al-Samei said protesters were in the yard in front of the governor’s office and had been there since Friday. The demonstrators, joined by several members of parliament, are demanding the governor’s removal and trial.
Another activist, Abdel-Malek al-Youssefi, said Taiz main streets were filled with black smoke as a result of burning tires, and that at least 30 children needed to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
He said tanks were at the city’s outskirts to prevent people from other towns taking part in the rally and that many supporters of the ruling Congress Party changed their allegiances and joined the ranks of the opposition.
The director of the field hospital in Taiz, Dr. Sadeq al-Shuja, said several of the 400 injured Friday had gunshot wounds. Saba said 23 policemen were among those injured but it did not say how they were hurt.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in other major cities, including Ibb, al-Hudaydah and Hadramawt, in support of the Taiz protesters. Normal life was completely paralyzed in Aden, where government offices, schools, shops and services came to a standstill.
Saleh has offered to step down at the end of this year if an acceptable transfer of power is reached, but the opposition fears he is just stalling for time.
Yemen is wracked by a tribal rebellion in the north, a separatist movement in the south and the presence of an al-Qaeda affiliate operating in the remote mountainous hinterlands. Saleh has been a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, but the U.S. has been pressing him to negotiate his exit.