Embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected an exit plan by Gulf states trying to broker an end to bloody unrest, as tens of thousands of Yemenis turned out yesterday for pro and anti-regime protests.
“Our power comes from the power of our great people, not from Qatar, not from anyone else. This is blatant interference in Yemeni affairs,” Saleh told a massive crowd of regime supporters in Sana’a.
“We were born free, and we have free will and they have to respect our wishes. We reject any coup against democracy, the Constitution and our freedom,” he said.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said on Thursday that members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) “hope to reach a deal with the Yemeni president to step down.”
Tens of thousands of Yemenis turned out for rival protests in the capital Sana’a, one supporting the president and the other calling for his departure. Pro-regime demonstrators assembled in Tahrir Square, chanting slogans in support of Saleh, who has been in power since 1978 and whose departure anti-regime protesters have been demanding since January.
“With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for Ali Abdullah Saleh,” chanted his supporters, some of whom carried his picture.
They then marched from Tahrir to Sabaeen Square, where Saleh delivered his speech.
A few kilometers away, anti-regime protesters massed at a square near Sana’a University, chanting “Go, Ali!”
Clashes were not reported at either demonstration.
The anti-government gathering was held under the slogan “day of steadfastness,” while the pro-government rally was dubbed the “day of reconciliation.”
The Gulf Cooperation Council proposal offered to Saleh would have seen him hand power over to his deputy, while providing guarantees of protection to him and his family, the opposition said.
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