JNN 22 April 2011 : Tens of thousands of Yemeni protesters demanding democratic reforms spilled out into the streets of the capital and insisted President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down after 32 years in power.
The anti-regime protesters gathered in the capital Sana’a, Baida and other cities on Thursday to call for an immediate end to Saleh’s decades-long rule.
Saleh gave mixed signals on Wednesday on his readiness to leave, and said he would stand firm against “conspiracies and coups.”
A new Arab plan has given Saleh the option to resign with a guarantee that he would not be prosecuted as demanded by the people. The proposal calls for a three-month transition plan that would end in presidential elections.
Abdel Latif al-Zayani, secretary general of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council, met the embattled president on Tuesday. No other details of the talks were released, except that Saleh has been requested to transfer power to his vice-president within a 30-day period after a national unity government is formed.
As negotiations drag on, the potential for escalating violence increases. Saleh has warned of chaos and possibly a civil war if he is forced out of office.
Meanwhile, local media have reported the arrest of 12 ministers and nearly 200 deputies and officers.
The arrests came after Saleh ordered the seizure of what he called suspicious persons on duty, after several ministers resigned on Friday over the government’s deadly crackdown on protesters.
Reports say the 12 ministers were later released.
The uprising intensified Wednesday with a call by protesters for civil disobedience in four provinces – Aden, Lahj, Taiz and Ebb.
Already, central government authority had virtually disappeared from the southern city of Aden, the country’s second largest city, where popular committees are guarding properties and directing traffic. Aden, once the capital of an independent southern nation, is also a hotbed of an ongoing secessionist movement.
Representatives of Saleh’s government and the opposition met separately with GCC officials this week in Abu Dhabi, capital of the Emirates. The talks, however, failed to break new ground because the opposition insisted that Saleh immediately and unconditionally step down.
Also Thursday, tens of thousands were rallying again in Taiz, south of the capital Sanaa, demanding Saleh’s ouster and his trial for crimes he allegedly committed during his 32 years in power.
Al-Zayani’s visit to Yemen came one day after Saleh struck a defiant note in a speech to women’s groups.
“We will remain steadfast like the mountains of Eidan, Nuqum and Zafar,” he proclaimed, referring to some of the region’s daunting mountain ranges. “We will not be shaken by the wind.”
But opposition spokesman Mohammed Sabri said Saleh was stalling.
“He is looking for more guarantees that he is not prosecuted after he steps down,” said Sabri.