Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yemen protester killed amid calls for Saleh to quit

By Hammoud Mounassar (AFP)

SANAA — Yemeni police killed one anti-government demonstrator and wounded scores more on Sunday, a day after the opposition told President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to his deputy.

The young man was shot dead while tearing up a poster of Saleh during a demonstration in the city of Taez, 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of the capital Sanaa, witnesses said.

At least 250 others were injured, some with live rounds, when police used tear gas and gunfire to disperse the protesters who were heading to the governorate headquarters.

Police continued to fire as security forces pushed back the demonstrators to a square where they have been holding a sit-in as part of nationwide protests demanding that Saleh end more than three decades in power, the witnesses added.

The opposition, which has led the more than two month old protests, called on the president on Saturday to hand over power to his deputy.

In a new "vision for a peaceful and secure transition of power," the opposition Common Forum urged Saleh "to announce his resignation, so that his powers pass to his deputy."

Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who is from the southern province of Abyan, is a member of Saleh's ruling General People's Congress.

It was the first time the opposition had presented a proposal for the transition of power which it has been demanding since anti-Saleh protests broke out in late January.

Officials and ruling party members declined to comment on the proposal. State television continued to air footage of tribal chiefs renewing their allegiance to Saleh.

Young activists among the protesters appeared to distance themselves from the opposition's proposal, announcing at the podium of their main sit-in in Sanaa that their demand remained the "departure of the president and all the figures of his regime."

Under the opposition plan, the vice president would take over on a caretaker basis and embark on a reorganisation of the myriad security agencies, which are the backbone of Saleh's regime.

"An agreement would be reached with the temporary president on the form of power during the transitional period, based on national consensus," the opposition statement said.

It stipulated that a transitional national council should begin a wide-reaching national dialogue, and that a panel of experts should be formed to draft constitutional reforms.

It said a government of national unity should be formed to manage the transition, along with an interim military council made up of "officers known for their competence and integrity, and who are respected in the army."

A high electoral commission would be formed to oversee the holding of a referendum on constitutional reforms, as well as parliamentary and presidential elections.

In addition, the opposition stressed the "right to peaceful expression, demonstrations and sit-ins for all the people of Yemen," and demanded an investigation into the use of deadly force by security force personnel against protesters.

It said those responsible for the attacks on demonstrators "should be tried, while those wounded and disabled and the families of martyrs should be compensated."

In the face of more than two months of protests, which Amnesty International says have cost at least 95 lives in clashes with security forces, Saleh had offered to step down before his term runs out in 2013.

But he has hardened his stance since a massive pro-regime rally on March 25.

Protest leaders say the Yemeni strongman has been emboldened by US support for an ally seen by Washington as a key partner in its battle against Al-Qaeda.

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