Yemeni police clash with anti-government protesters

Monday, February 14, 2011

SANA’A - Yemeni police clashed with over 3,000 anti-government protesters marching toward the presidential palace in Sana’a.

Police intervened Sunday as around 3,000 people calling for the fall of President Ali Abdullah Saleh began marching towards the palace.

Police and Republican Guard troops used batons to disperse the protesters, who were mainly students, and arrested seven journalists along with five rights activists and 10 protesters. All were later released.

At least four people were injured, opposition sources said.

Meanwhile, the country’s main opposition alliance, the Joint Meeting parties, said Sunday it has accepted a call from Saleh to engage in a national dialogue on political reforms.

Saleh said last week he would not seek another term in office after his current tenure ends in 2013 and promised to postpone parliamentary elections scheduled for April until talks with the opposition on reforms of the electoral system are concluded.

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Sana’a and several other main cities across Yemen last week to call for Saleh to step down.

Dialogue between the ruling General People’s Congress party (GPC) and the opposition stalled in late 2009, when the GPC proposed constitutional amendments to cancel the current two-term limit on the country’s presidency.

Last month, the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, agreed in principle to debate the constitutional amendments, but referred them to a sub-committee for further study.

Also among the proposed changes was one to reduce the president’s term of office from seven to five years.

Saleh, 68, has been in power since 1978. He was directly elected for the first time in 1999, and re-elected for a second seven-year term in 2006. His current tenure is set to end in 2013.

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