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Yemen rejects Saleh offer with biggest protests yet

Nearly 100,000 called today for President Saleh to step down, despite his proposal yesterday for sweeping reforms. But Yemen's growing protest movement lacks a coherent plan, raising concern that other groups could seize control of the country.

Antigovernment protesters gather during a rally to demand for the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz on March 11. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Yemen on Friday, trying to draw record crowds to show Saleh his offers of reform would not soften their demand for his resignation.

Reuters

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Just one day after Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh proposed sweeping reforms that would change the country’s constitution and transform the government into a parliamentary system by 2012, nearly 100,000 people gathered on the streets outside Sanaa University calling for his immediate resignation.

“Six months ago we might have accepted a plan like this. But this is a way for [Mr. Saleh] to stay in power,” said Yousef al-Ward, an opposition demonstrator from the nearby village of Beni Hushaish. “We want a new government – without him in it.”

Friday’s demonstration, the largest to date in Yemen’s capital, was marked by a fearless defiance after protests turned violent earlier this week. On Tuesday, security forces opened fire on protesters, injuring dozens and killing one. Rubber bullets, live rounds, and tear gas were fired at demonstrators, who were attempting to push back security lines and expand the area where thousands have been camping out for weeks.

The rapid growth of the opposition in recent weeks has increased the pressure on Saleh to either yield to or confront the uprising. However, the surge in numbers has also brought tension to the opposition itself.

Despite the fact that the students, Islamists, tribesmen, and political leaders that make up the opposition are united in calling for the fall of the regime, their perspectives diverge sharply when it comes to how that should be done and what should come next. Without a coherent plan, the opposition may be creating opportunities for other groups to seize control of the country.

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