Thousands of Yemenis gathered after Friday prayers to demand the resignation of their president, a day after U.S. officials expressed hope a deal to force him from office would soon be signed.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh has remained as leader despite being in Saudi Arabia since June for medical treatment of injuries suffered in an attack on his palace. Army forces in the capital Sana’a formed a protective ring around demonstrators who chanted anti-Saleh slogans.
With the country in political limbo and demonstrations against Saleh continuing, the president this week authorized his deputy to talk with the opposition in an effort to put an end to the crisis that has gone on for months.
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council of Yemen's neighbors initially proposed a plan in April to end the anti-government turmoil in Yemen. Saleh agreed to the proposal three times, but each time backed out before the deal could be signed.
The Associated Press reported on Friday that a Saudi official said Saleh will not return to Yemen.
Opposition protesters and tribesmen have been protesting since February for an immediate end to Saleh's 33-year autocratic rule. Yemeni troops and Saleh's loyalists have cracked down on demonstrators and tribesmen who have taken up arms against the government.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday hundreds of people have been killed in six-months of protest-related violence. The commissioner's office also accused the Yemeni government of using excessive lethal force against peaceful activists protesting for greater freedoms.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.