Tens of Thousands Protest Across Yemen Against President

SANAA (Xinhua) — Tens of thousands of protesters gathered Friday at main squares of major Yemeni provinces to reaffirm their demand of ending the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Outside Sanaa University in the capital, where many protesters have camped out for weeks, the square was flooded Friday with about 50,000 people to perform prayers and show their insistence to oust Saleh.

Thousands of people also attended Friday prayers at a main square in the southern port city of Aden to mourn the death of two anti-government protesters who died of wounds by gunshots last month during clashes with police, according to a local councilman.

After they finished their prayers, protesters spread into streets shouting for overthrowing President Saleh. No clashes were reported so far, the councilman told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

About 200,000 anti-government protesters gathered at a sit-in in southern province of Ibb, while nearly 20,000 others converged in northern Amran province, according to security sources.

Thousands of protesters were reportedly gathered in other major provinces of Al-Hodayda, Al-Bayda, Taiz, Al-Dhalee, Lahj, Abyan and Hadramout.

Meanwhile, government supporters staged counter-rallies in some major cities, including the capital of Sanaa. According to security sources, the government loyalists were much less than the anti-government protesters.

Around 10,000 government supporters gathered at Al-Tahrir Square in downtown Sanaa, shouting “Yemen needs Ali Abdullah Saleh “.

Government loyalists also staged pro-regime demonstration in Al- Hodayda, Ibb and Taiz provinces. A security source told Xinhua that government supporters will hold on Saturday a massive rally in the northern province of Amran to avoid possible friction with anti-government protesters on Friday.

Earlier last month, Saleh pledged not to seek re-election after his presidential term ends in 2013. he also promised not to pass power to his son.

Mediated by Yemeni religious clerics, the opposition handed over a roadmap deal on Wednesday to President Saleh for peaceful transition of power that must be implemented within a year, offering him an honorable ending of his 33-year service.

The state-run Saba news agency reported Friday that the roadmap deal consists of eight points, stipulating Saleh to cancel the latest amendments to the constitution that proposed unilaterally by the ruling party earlier this year; rewriting the election laws; establishing a mediation committee to end political disputes; stop inciting media propaganda campaigns; release all political prisoners who have not been proven guilty; forming a national unity government; intensifying anti-corruption investigation; and end demonstrations and sit-ins.

The deal also includes that an investigation should be carried out against those who committed violence during the previous days against protesters and must be brought to justice.

Inspired by the Egyptian protests, thousands of Yemenis continue staging anti-regime protest rallies across the country, including the capital Sanaa, since Feb. 11.

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