Anti-government protesters clashed with police trying to prevent them from marching toward Yemen’s presidential palace in Sana’a yesterday, witnesses said.
Shortly before the clashes, the opposition agreed to enter talks with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is keen to avert an Egypt-style revolt in the country, a US ally against al-Qaeda.
“The Yemeni people want the fall of the regime,” protesters shouted during the demonstration attended by about 1,000 people, before dozens broke off to march to the palace. “A Yemeni revolution after the Egyptian revolution.”
Sporadic anti-government protests have gathered momentum in Yemen. Earlier this month, tens of thousands took part in an opposition-led “Day of Rage” to demand a change of government, inspired by popular protests in Tunisia and Egypt.
Pro and anti-government protesters have clashed in recent days.
Opposition officials said 10 protesters were detained in Sana’a and 120 were taken into custody overnight in the city of Taiz, where authorities broke up a demonstration on Saturday.
Four people were hurt in the Sana’a clashes, in which police hit protesters with batons and demonstrators threw rocks at police, witnesses said.
Saleh, in power for more than three decades and concerned about unrest in some parts of the Arab world, has said he would step down in 2013 and pledged his son will not take over the reins of government. He invited the opposition for talks.
“The opposition does not reject what came in the invitation by the president and is ready to sign an agreement in no more than a week,” said former Yemeni foreign minister Mohammed Basindwa, now an opposition politician, adding that the talks should include Western or Gulf observers.
Up to 2,000 demonstrators evaded massed police on Saturday to rally in a central Algiers square, calling for Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to go following the overthrow of leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.
Ringed by hundreds of riot police, some of whom carried automatic weapons in addition to clubs and shields, they waved a large banner reading “Regime, out” and chanted slogans borrowed from the mass protests in Tunis and Cairo.
However, police deployed in their tens of thousands prevented them making a planned 4km march from May 1 Square to Martyrs’ Square.
The demonstrators included both the head of the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), Said Sadi, and his one-time enemy Ali Belhadj, the former leader of the now-banned Islamist Salvation Front.
A knot of police surrounded Sadi to prevent him using a loudspeaker to address the crowd, while a number of arrests were made.
By the afternoon, only about 150 mainly young protesters were left in a corner of the square still chanting defiantly.
However, Fodil Boumala, one of the founders of the National Coordination for Change and Democracy, which called the march, was jubilant.
“We’ve broken the wall of fear, this is only a beginning,” he said. “The Algerians have won back their capital.”
Iran’s opposition yesterday renewed its call for a rally in support of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt despite a government warning of repercussions if demonstrations take place, a reformist Web site reported.
In a statement published on -Kaleme.com, the opposition urged its supporters to rally today in central Tehran and accused the government of hypocrisy by voicing support for the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings while refusing to allow Iranian political activists to stage a peaceful demonstration.