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Thousands of Yemenis rally to urge Saleh's resignation

(Xinhua)

17:43, October 01, 2011

SANAA, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- Tens of thousands of anti- government protesters on Friday staged rallies across Yemen to press President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign, in a relative-calm way after week-long deadly clashes between Saleh's troops and the defected army.

The anti-government protesters dubbed the day as "Friday of victory for Yemen and Syria", in reference to a joint cooperation between protesters in the two countries.

"Freedom for Yemen ... People want to build new Yemen," the protesters chanted after they finished their midday Friday prayers, according to eyewitnesses. The protesters also called the international community to adopt a strict stance against what they said "the violence against the protesters."

Saleh's supporters also gathered in a massive rally by thousands of demonstrators in Sabeen Street nearby Saleh's presidential palace in Sanaa, calling the day "Friday of dialogue. "

"People want Ali Abdullah Saleh," Saleh's supporters shouted as rising banners reading "Yes for dialogue for the safety of Yemen."

The impoverished Arab country has faced nationwide protests since the beginning of this year, calling for ousting embattled President Saleh, who has been in power for 33 years.

The veteran president returned to Yemen last Friday after spending more than three months in Saudi Arabia for recovering from injuries he sustained in an attack on his Sanaa palace on June 3.

Saleh's return sparked week-long deadly clashes between forces loyal to him and the defected army in Sanaa and the southern restive province of Taiz, leaving more than 100 protesters killed and more than 1,000 others wounded.

On Thursday, Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi announced an initial negotiation with the opposition to implement a Gulf- brokered initiative for power transfer and end eight-month-long turmoil that left hundreds of people dead and more than 2,000 others injured.

Saleh on Sept. 12 authorized his deputy, Hadi, to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative for power transfer after holding dialogue with the opposition.

The GCC deal, which was initiated in April and was signed by the opposition in May, stipulated Saleh to step down in 30 days and hand over power to his deputy, who will then form an opposition-led national government and arrange presidential elections in 60 days. Saleh has backed out of signing the deal for three times in the last minute.

Unconfirmed reports said Friday that a deal based on the GCC initiative could be reached late this night between Saleh's ruling party and the opposition under the supervision of Hadi, Yemen's UN convoy Jamal bin Omar and the United States.

The international community and other Arab countries fear that continuing turmoil in Yemen could provide more space to the resurgent al-Qaida wing to operate and threaten oil shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.

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