Mar 27, 2011

President of Yemen fires his entire government

By Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa

Monday March 21 2011

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired his entire government last night after a string of allies broke ranks with him as he faces increasing pressure from street protests to step down.

Mourners buried some of the 52 anti-government protesters shot dead by rooftop snipers after Muslim Friday prayers in the Arabian Peninsula state, where tens of thousands of people have protested for weeks against Mr Saleh's three decades long rule.

Yassin Noman, rotating head of an opposition coalition, dismissed the move as "an attempt to diminish the repercussions that the regime faces after the resignations of a number of ministers and ambassadors".

Friday's bloodshed prompted Mr Saleh, a key US ally in the fight against al-Qai'da, to declare a state of emergency for 30 days that restricts freedom of movement and the right to gather.

Yemen's ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Alsaidi resigned yesterday as defections picked up steam.

A government source said neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, had been trying to quietly mediate even before Friday's shooting, and efforts were continuing.

Mr Saleh, also trying to cement a northern truce and quell southern separatism, has rejected demands to resign immediately, promising instead to step down in 2013.

A string of his allies have since broken ranks to join protesters frustrated by rampant corruption and soaring unemployment. Some 40pc of the population live on $2 (€1.40) a day, or less, and a third face chronic hunger.

Defect

In addition to the UN envoy, Yemen's Minister for Human Rights Houda al-Ban resigned yesterday, the second cabinet member to defect since Friday.

Washington, which sees Yemen as a rampart against a resurgent al-Qa'ida wing, said US citizens should avoid areas of planned demonstrations, which could turn violent. It has already urged Americans to leave Yemen.

As unrest continued across Yemen, five pro-government tribesmen were killed in clashes with northern Shi'ite rebels yesterday.

- Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa

Irish Independent


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