Yemeni president vows not to quit despite tensions soar

08:46, February 22, 2011      

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Anti-government protests rattled Yemen's major provinces on Monday, leaving dozens injured as tensions soared after President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that he would not step down until rivals defeated him through ballots.

At least five protesters were injured in clashes with police when they were along with other anti-government protesters burning a building of the local council office on Monday's evening in southern province of Lahj, a local official told Xinhua.

He said that "five protesters were wounded by random police gunshots during fierce clashes and were rushed to the hospital after 500 demonstrators stormed into the building of local council office and set it on fire in Lahj's capital city Al-Houta."

The latest development came following a speech by Saleh, in which he announced earlier Monday that he will not quit power until others defeated him through ballots.

"Whoever wants to gain the power, he must hold it by winning elections, whether in parliamentary or presidential elections," the embattled president told reporters at a press conference in his presidential palace in the capital of Sanaa.

Saleh's new decision came amid escalating demands by the opposition coalition that apparently press the president to make more concessions.

"We had offered packages of concessions to the opposition parties to meet their demands, the opposition coalition has raised the level of their demands, some of which were not legitimate," he added.

The opposition said last week they agreed to resume a long- halted dialogue with Saleh's ruling party, showing readiness to join a unity national government under the supervision of Saleh.

Hours after president's speech, an official close to the consultative board of the opposition coalition told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the leadership of the opposition has decided to join the protesters in the streets.

Deadly clashes between police-backed government supporters and anti-regime protesters have left more than 10 people dead and hundreds of people injured since the waves of protests spread across the country.

Earlier Monday, security forces arrested four anti-government protesters and prevented others from staging a peaceful rally in southeast province of Shabwa, according to a local official.

In northwestern province of Al-Hodayda, scores of government backers wielding knives and batons clashed Monday with hundreds of anti-regime protesters, leaving dozens injured, according to a police source there.

In the capital of Sanaa, nearly 7,000 anti-regime protesters, mostly students, continued Monday a sit-in outside Sanaa University for asking the long-service president to resign, a police officer in charge of guarding the university said.

The protester erected tents late Sunday at a place they name it "Changing square" in front of the main gate of Sanaa University as security authorities blocked all roads leading to the campus.

Southern provinces of Aden, Taiz and Ibb also witnessed Monday massive rallies demanding the overthrowing of Saleh's power.

In the northern province of Saada, resurgent Houthi-led Shiite rebels staged Monday the first anti-government protest, a group spokesman said.

The Shiite rebel commander Abdulmalik al-Houthi pledged last week to prepare his fighters to support protesters in Sanaa against President Saleh if "the evolution breaks out."

Inspired by the Egyptian popular uprising, thousands of Yemenis took to streets in major cities, including the capital of Sanaa, for 11th consecutive days demanding the ouster of long-serving President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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