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Yemenis pray for political impasse end
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Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz June 23, 2011.
Credit: Reuters/Khaled Abdullah
By Mohamed Sudam
Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:13am EDT
SANAA (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of opposition Yemenis packed central Sanaa in what they called the "Friday of the Revolutionary Will" -- a signal of their determination to continue protests to get the wounded president to stand down.
Yemen has been stuck in a political impasse over the fate of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, recovering in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in an attack on his palace earlier this month.
The 69-year-old Saleh had defied months of protests by hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and pressure from the United States and his Gulf Arab neighbors, refusing to transfer power to his deputy under a plan aimed at preventing the country from sliding to civil war.
Friday's opposition supporters packed central Sanaa's Street Sixty to show they still wanted him to quit.
The number of demonstrators who had camped out in city squares all over Yemen since February dwindled after Saleh was flown to Riyadh for treatment after the June 3 attack.
"We will escalate our struggle and revolution to bring down the remaining pillars of the regime and force them to leave," said Abdel-Jabbar al-Dubhani, an activist as he hurried for the traditional Friday prayers on Sixty Street.
The demonstrators, who packed the broad street at prayer time, raised placards demanding that an interim council be established to prepare for elections. They want it to include revolutionary youths who have kept up protests since February.
"We demand a transitional council," one sign said.
Addressing Western powers, the preacher said: "Isn't freedom and choosing our own rulers, as you do in your own countries, our right?."
Similar protests were reported in other cities, including Ta'iz, Ibb and Hudaida on the Red Sea.
Demonstrators had hoped Saleh's departure to Riyadh would mark the beginning of the end of his 33 years in power but he has held on.
A team of United Nations human rights investigators will travel to Yemen next week to assess the situation after months of unrest, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Friday.
SALEH, SAUDI KING ABDULLAH POSTERS
A smaller number of Saleh supporters prayed on Friday at another mosque in Sanaa, displaying posters of the president and his Saudi host, King Abdullah, before they dispersed peacefully.
"Thank you, king of the Arabs," one poster read, referring to the Saudi monarch. Another said: "The people want Ali Abdullah Saleh."
In Aden, witnesses said that security forces shot dead one demonstrator and wounded six others when they opened fire on thousands of people at the funeral of a local resident who died in a prison a year ago.
Witnesses said the demonstrators had been displaying a large flag of former south Yemen, which merged with north Yemen in 1990.
The United States has called for an immediate and peaceful transition of power to Saleh's deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is now acting president in Saleh's absence, under a Gulf Arab proposal to resolve the crisis that have pushed the country to the verge of civil war.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden, Writing by Sami Aboudi)
(Edited by Richard Meares)
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