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Opposition accepts Saleh's reform initiative, protests continue

world Updated: Feb 13, 2011 19:50 IST

IANS
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As a number of anti-government protesters marched toward the presidential palace in Yemen on Sunday, the opposition accepted a political reform initiative offered earlier this month by President Ali Abdullah Saleh in which he pledged not to seek another term or hand over power to his son.

Hundreds of anti-government protesters marched toward the presidential palace to demand a regime change in the Middle Eastern country.

Some of them chanted, "First Mubarak, now Ali," referring to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Hosni Mubarak, who Friday resigned as president of Egypt after nearly 30 years in power, CNN reported.

Security forces put up a barbed wire barricade and blocked the protesters' path about two miles from the palace.

Nearby, a group of about 40 pro-government demonstrators chanted: "With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for (President) Ali".

The anti-government group initially assembled at the gates of Sana'a University earlier Sunday, where another group of pro-government demonstrators carried pictures of the president.

Police tried to disperse the crowds and stepped in to prevent pro-government demonstrators from following when the anti-government group headed away from the university and toward the palace.

The group of anti-government protesters included students and rights activists. Their numbers swelled as they marched through streets of Sana'a.

Saleh has ruled Yemen for 32 years and has pledged not to stand for re-election when his current term -- which started in 2006 -- ends in 2013.

However, Hosni Mubarak's rule ended Friday (Feb 11) when he stepped down after 18 days of anti-government protests rocked Egypt.

Echoes of Egypt's revolution resonated across the region, with anti-government protests in Yemen and Algeria.

Demonstrations are also planned in Libya and Iran Monday, the CNN report added.

On Saturday, brief clashes erupted in Yemen between hundreds of pro- and anti-government demonstrators who staged rival rallies in the capital.

Meanwhile, Yemen's opposition has accepted a political reform initiative offered earlier this month by President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"We accept the political reform initiative offered by President Saleh on Feb 2," Xinuha quoted the opposition coalition saying in a statement.

"We are ready to begin the national dialogue with the president's ruling party as of this week," it added.

Opposition leaders said they made such a decision because they tried to keep the country away from spreading unrest that changed regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

As tens of thousands of jubilant people in Cairo celebrated the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Yemenis inspired by the Egyptian uprising have begun mustering forces for their own revolution.

In Yemen's port city of Aden, protesters marched through the Mansoura district, waving the old flag of South Arabia and chanting "Revolution, revolution for the south", the Christian Science Monitor reported on Saturday.

Just hours before that march, security forces had fired live ammunition during a protest on the same street.

Hundreds more staged demonstrations throughout Aden, as well as in other cities across Yemen's south.

"After Hosni Mubarak, Yemen is going to be next. I know it," said Zahra Saleh, a prominent secession activist watching the scenes in Cairo on a TV set in a small Aden office.

"Now our revolution has to be stronger," declared Ali Jarallah, a leader in the southern separatist movement.

The Yemeni southern secessionist movement is not calling for political reforms, an end to corruption, or even for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, as the political opposition is doing in the capital city Sana'a.

They are pushing for the end of what they view is northern Yemeni occupation and the restoration of an independent southern Yemeni state.