December 27, 2011
FRANCE has criticised the Yemeni government's use of deadly force on protesters and warned it could seek sanctions.
Yemen is in the grip of an uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has promised to stand down after a presidential election in February, but cuts an increasingly beleaguered figure as his country plunges into chaos.
In a statement from its foreign ministry, France said government forces had fired live rounds at a peaceful demonstration in Sanaa on Saturday "causing numerous deaths and injuries."
"France called on the vice president and prime minister to assume all their responsibilities and exert their authority on all military and police forces to bring to an end violence against protesters," it said.
France called on commanders in the security forces to put themselves under the command of Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi, and expressed the hope that Mr Saleh's departure "will reduce tensions".
"France and its partners do not rule out putting particular restrictive measures in place against members of the army or police or people who, by deliberately stoking tension, seek to undermine the political process."
Mr Saleh has said he is ready to travel temporarily to the United States in order to calm the atmosphere, but Washington has said it would only issue him a visa for "legitimate medical reasons".
It comes as the ongoing battles between Al-Qaeda suspects and Yemen's army near the restive southern city of Zinjibar killed five soldiers and two Al-Qaeda suspects.
"Five soldiers were killed and seven wounded in late Sunday battles" between the army and Al-Qaeda-linked militants, a military official said.
The army fired artillery rounds on the militants' hideouts on Zinjibar's outskirts.
Medics confirmed the toll, adding that two of the extremists were also killed in the fighting.
The Islamist extremist network has turned 11 months of political turmoil in the country to its advantage, using the popular revolt against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to bolster its presence in southern and eastern Yemen.
Militants linked to Al-Qaeda control several regions and towns including Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar, where they clash regularly with government forces and tribal auxiliaries.
Government forces are also sometimes supported by US drone strikes in their battle against the Partisans of Sharia, the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group that took over most of Zinjibar in May.