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Rival Protests Fill Streets as Yemen's President Defiant


Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside Sana'a University, April 1, 2011

Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside Sana'a University, April 1, 2011

Tens of thousands of rival demonstrators rallied in the streets of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, Friday, some showing support for the government while others protesting against it.

Anti-government activists gathered outside Sana'a University to call for an immediate end to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule.

Backers of the president joined together in Sabyeen square, chanting and waving Yemeni flags. In a speech to them, Mr. Saleh promised to "sacrifice my blood and soul" for the people of Yemen.

The president has lost broad support from tribal and military leaders but shows no signs of stepping down. Talks between rival factions to end his 32-year rule by year's end have stalled.

Mr. Saleh has offered to hand over power after new elections are held, possibly before the end of his current term in 2013. Yemen's opposition coalition has rejected such proposals as political maneuvering.

Mr. Saleh had called for the "solidarity" demonstration a day earlier, drawing tribal chiefs, clerics, civil society figures and other supporters.

Anti-government demonstrators have been staging two months of mass protests demanding the president's ouster. Thousands of Mr. Saleh's opponents rallied in Sana'a and other Yemeni cities on Thursday.

Several Yemeni army officers have joined the protesters in Sana'a, the latest examples of a wave of defections by Yemeni troops, politicians and diplomats who have turned against Mr. Saleh in recent weeks.

The anti-government activists also blame Mr. Saleh for the fatal shootings of opposition protesters by his supporters.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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