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Yemen leader balks at signing resignation deal
Question of the Day
His stalling on signing could throw Yemen deeper into turmoil. Mr. Saleh has managed to cling to power despite near daily protests by tens of thousands of Yemenis fed up with corruption and poverty. Like other anti-government movements sweeping the Arab world, they took inspiration from the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
The president has swung between offering concessions, taking them back and executing a violent crackdown that has killed more than 150 people, according to the opposition, which says it compiled the tally from lists of the dead at hospitals around the nation.
Mr. Saleh has survived despite mass defections by ruling party members, lawmakers, Cabinet ministers and senior diplomats. Mr. Saleh’s own tribe has joined those demanding his ouster. Several top army commanders, including a longtime confidant who heads a powerful armored division, joined the opposition and deployed their tanks in the streets of Sanaa to protect the protesters.
That has raised concerns the political crisis could turn into an armed clash between the rival military forces if a deal is further delayed.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has an estimated 300 fighters in Yemen and has been behind several nearly successful attacks on U.S. targets, including one in which they got a would-be suicide bomber on board a Detroit-bound flight in December 2009. The explosive device, sewn into his underwear, failed to detonate properly.
But even if Mr. Saleh signs the accord, it was far from certain whether that would satisfy the many different groups protesting his rule in the streets. Many protesters reject the deal, saying it falls short of their demands he leave immediately and his regime be dismantled. They also reject any immunity for the Yemeni leader and say the opposition parties don’t speak for their demands.
Hundreds of thousands on Sunday poured into a central square that has become the center of opposition protests, waving Yemeni flags and shouting rejection of the deal. They held banners that read, “Now, now Ali, down with the president!” and “Go out Ali!”
Women mingled with men, unlike in previous protests when female protesters stood on the edge of the square segregated from men, in keeping with Sharia law, which mandates separation of the sexes. Children had their faces painted with Yemeni flags, while youths carried pictures of slain protesters. Young men and women held a 6-foot-long Yemeni flag.
“This initiative is only meant to save Ali, not Yemen. We are going to continue our revolution until the end. Like Tunisia and Egypt, we will go against the opposition if they form a government while Saleh is still in power,” declared Tawakul Karman, a protest leader and senior member of the opposition Islamic fundamentalist Islah Party.
Associated Press writer Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.
By Michael P. Orsi
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