Apr 5, 2011
Brussels - The European Union on Tuesday upped the pressure on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, with the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton telling him that 'transition must start now.'
The EU's message came after anti-government protests were suppressed on Monday using live bullets and tear gas, causing 19 deaths and leaving more than a 1,000 people injured or sickened by gas fumes.
'Contrary to earlier commitments, freedom of expression and security of peaceful demonstrators is not being guaranteed,' Ashton pointed out, declaring herself 'gravely concerned by reports of violent repression.'
She reiterated a call for 'an orderly political transition to start without delay in order to resolve the current crisis and pave the way for reforms.'
'This is the message I personally conveyed to the president last week. Transition must start now,' Ashton charged.
Her remarks came in the wake of a New York Times report on Monday indicating that United States officials were privately advocating for the Yemeni leader to step down, despite his role so far as a key ally in US efforts to fight al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula.
Demonstrations in Yemen began in February, following popular uprisings against long-time rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.