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Middle east

Pro- and anti-regime rallies staged in Yemeni capital

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-06-10

Yemen's rival camps staged new rallies Friday amid reports President Ali Abdullah Saleh had left intensive care in Saudi Arabia, where he was being treated for injuries sustained in a bomb blast US experts say was probably an "inside job".

AFP - Pro- and anti-regime activists held rallies on Friday as loyalists celebrated news that Yemen's president was out of intensive care in Riyadh after treatment for bomb blast wounds.

Tens of thousands of protesters demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh's replacement by an interim ruling council massed at Sanaa's "Change Square" and nearby Sittin Street to push for a quick transition of power.

Large numbers of Yemenis loyal to the embattled leader, meanwhile, gathered a few kilometres (miles) away at Sabbeen Square to celebrate after state media said Saleh was making a quick recovery and out of intensive care at a Saudi hospital.

"The people want a new Yemen," shouted anti-regime protesters. "The people want a transitional council," their chants rang across Sittin Street, which has since January been hosting weekly anti-Saleh demonstrations.

Saleh has not been seen in public since he was wounded in a bomb attack on his presidential compound on June 3 and there have been conflicting reports about his health since he was flown to Riyadh last Saturday for treatment.

The attack itself was an assassination bid, likely an "inside job" using an explosive device, not a mortar or shells as initially reported, according to US experts.

STRATFOR, a US-based authority on strategic and tactical intelligence issues, said its assessment was based on an evaluation of photographs taken of the blast site, a mosque inside Saleh's presidential compound in Sanaa.

A Saudi official said the 69-year-old Yemeni president's health was "stable" and was waiting for doctors to fix a date for cosmetic surgery. Saleh would undergo an operation to treat "light burns on the scalp", he said.

Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi also insisted Saleh was in good condition and would return to Yemen within days.

As Saleh's health reportedly improves, however, his opponents have been pressing his deputy to establish an interim ruling council to prevent him from returning to power.

But a government official ruled out any transfer of power before the return of the veteran president.

"It is impossible to talk about a transition of power before the return of the president," deputy information minister Abdo al-Janadi told reporters on Thursday.

Saleh has come under mounting international pressure to quit as five months of protests have drawn powerful tribes into the conflict, sparking deadly fighting with loyalist security forces on the streets of Sanaa.

And the United States has warned that the turmoil in Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland is playing into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

Saleh's government has been a key partner in the US 'war on terror", while always denying having allowed US strikes on its soil, insisting its own forces carried out the operations.

In Washington, CIA chief Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee that US counter-terrorism operations against extremists in Yemen, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), were continuing.

"While obviously it's a scary and uncertain situation, with regards to counter-terrorism we're still very much continuing our operations," Panetta said on Thursday.

Tension has been high in southern Yemen as troops push to regain control of the city of Zinjibar, held by suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen since late May.

Government officials say most of Zinjibar is in the hands of jihadists but the opposition accuses Saleh of exaggerating the Al-Qaeda threat in a desperate bid to ease foreign pressure on his 33-year rule.

Three family members of a suspected Al-Qaeda member were killed on Friday in an air raid on presumed hideouts of the jihadist network in the Jaar area of the southern province of Abyan.

 

Date created : 2011-06-10

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