JNN 25.04.11 SANAA – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has struck a defiant tone in an interview, a day after his government said he had accepted a Persian Gulf Arab plan to hand over power within weeks.
Saleh has faced down three months of street protests as well as pressure to go from his main backers Saudi Arabia and the United States, and opposition groups fear his verbal acceptance of the plan may be no more than a tactic, Reuters reported.
“We are going to stick to constitutional legitimacy. We won’t accept ‘constructive chaos’,” he told BBC Arabic television Sunday, using language that some fear means he intends to see out his presidential term to September 2013.
Meanwhile, forces loyal to Saleh opened fire at protesters demanding his ouster across the country on Monday, killing two demonstrators at two separate rallies and wounding at least 10 people at a third protest, activists said.
According to The Associated Press, the latest violence came as a PGCC proposal for Saleh to step down appears increasingly doomed, raising prospects of more bloodshed and instability in a nation already beset by deep poverty and conflict.
Yemen’s unrest erupted over two months ago, inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The near-daily protests against Saleh, the country’s ruler of 32 years, have demanded he relinquish power immediately.
Monday’s deaths came during anti-Saleh protests in Ibb and in the central city of Bayda, said activist Ibrahim al-Budani.
In the city of Ibb, 120 miles (190 kilometers) south of the capital Sanaa, demonstrators set fire to two cars used by government-paid thugs who shot at them but the attackers managed to flee, he said.
In the southern city of Taiz, presidential guard troops, who are run by Saleh’s eldest son, fired bullets and tear gas into tens of thousands of protesters gathered there, according to activist Nouh al-Wafi.
Another activist, Bushra al-Maqtari, said at least 10 protesters were wounded by gunshots in Taiz, some of them critically. Dozens suffered breathing problems from the tear gas.
Al-Wafi said the protesters were rallying for Saleh’s ouster with a simple chant: “Leave!” He said the troops prevented ambulances from getting to the wounded, and that several people and local journalists were arrested.
Photo: Yemeni protesters march during a demonstration demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Taiz on April 25, 2011.