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When Yemen's million marchers dared its president

Last updated on: March 25, 2011 23:24 IST

When Yemen's million marchers dared its president

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Yemen appeared to be nearing a brink as protesters staged a 'million people march' onto the capital Sanaa after Friday prayers, amid reports that a shaky President Ali Abdullah Saleh was engaged in serious negotiations to time an exit.

Truckloads of anti-Saleh protesters poured into Sanaa, while the supporters of the beleaguered president attempted to stage a counter rally, raising the prospects of a bloody confrontation.

Al-Jazeera quoting witnesses said, that loyalists forces from the republican guards were out on the streets with tanks and bazokas to prevent anti-government supporters from entering the city.

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Image: Anti-government protesters, demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Saleh, during funeral procession in Sanaa University on Friday
Photographs: Ammar Awad/Reuters
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'The Friday of Departure'

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Replicating the Egyptian million strong rally which proved to be the final nail in former dictator Hosni Mubarak's coffin, the Yemeni protesters carrying huge posters calling for Saleh to quit and labelled their march as 'Friday of Departure.'

During the rally, protesters have threatened to march to presidential palace, raising fears of a possible repeat of the previous Friday when 52 demonstrators were gunned down by regime loyalists.

The international rights group have warned the government against any renewed use of "deadly force".


Image: A girl stands beside women who are praying during an anti-government rally to demand for the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa University
Photographs: Ammar Awad/Reuters
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'No dialogue for this dead regime'

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Yemen is already under a state of emergency declared by Saleh just hours after bloodbath in Sanaa.

Chanting "no dialogue and no initiative" for this "dead regime" opposition spokesperson Mohammad al-Sabri dismissed dismissed Saleh's offer to step down.

The defecting general Ali-Mohsen has thrown his weight behind the protesters and vowed that his troops will protect the marchers.


Image: Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside Sanaa University
Photographs: Ammar Awad/Reuters
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President Saleh tries his tricks

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Taking a defiant posture, President Saleh went live on television, throwing scorn on anti-government protesters, while offering amnesty to military defectors if they returned to the government side.

Al-Jazeera said Saleh had spoken to the defecting general on Wednesday night but, Mohsen spurned an offer to return and later publicly said "military rule in the Arab world is outdated."

New York Times said, as the four week old protest movement appeared to be gaining momentum, the president is engaged in serious negotiations over the timing in conditions for the end of his 32-year-old rule.

Quoting top level Yemeni and American official, the Times said, "The general assumption is that his (Saleh) days are numbered."


Image: Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks to his supporters in Sanaa in this videograb
Photographs: Reuters
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'But we don't want to take sides'

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The paper said, Saleh seems determined to decide the number himself, adding that the discussion about his exit were not just talks in a room, but negotiations involving representatives of 20 or more Yemeni factions and interest groups.

The talks are being closely monitored by representative of Saudi Arabia, Yemen's wealthy northern neighbour and the United States embassy in Sanaa.

"We want to express support for transition and concern about our security issues," a senior American official said.

"But we don't want to take sides," he added.


Image: Supporters of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh attend Friday prayers during a counter-rally in Sanaa
Photographs: Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi/Reuters
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