Friday, 25 March 2011

Yemen prepares for mass protests

Yemen's security forces are gathering in the capital's square as news of the biggest rally to date spreads around Sana'a. The protesters are demanding that long-term President Ali Abdullah Saleh step-down immediately.

The anti-government demonstrations have grown in momentum and violence, with an estimated 50 people killed on Friday 18th March in Sana'a. In a bid to appease the increasingly angered public Saleh promised to step-down within a year, but the opposition is calling for his immediate resignation. The protesters are also demanding constitutional reforms, a change of government and the dissolution of the country's internal security.

Military troops have been deployed to various posts around the capital, to identify protesters and prevent them from taking part in the rally. On Wednesday 23rd March, Yemen's parliament passed emergency laws giving security forces permission to detain suspects and intercept demonstrations.

A top military official who defected to the opposition this week met privately with Saleh to suggest ways to resolve the situation in the country. Saleh, however, rejected the idea of stepping down or entering talks with the opposition, saying: "Even if we entered with them now into an understanding, the situation will be worse than it is now."

The defection of Maj Gen Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar on Monday 14th March is seen as a key turning point that could potentially end Saleh's 30 year rule.

Sources: BBC News, AP, Sify News

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

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