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Yemeni Protesters Blame President for Factory Disaster


Anti-government protesters march in the central Yemeni city of Ibb to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, March 30, 2011

Anti-government protesters march in the central Yemeni city of Ibb to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, March 30, 2011

Thousands of Yemeni opposition activists have rallied in several cities to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they blame for deadly explosions at an ammunition factory earlier in the week.

The protesters gathered Wednesday in the capital, Sana'a, the central city of Ibb, the northern city of Saada and elsewhere. Mr. Saleh has faced weeks of daily mass demonstrations calling for his departure after 32 years in power and an end to corruption and poverty.

Yemen's opposition coalition also issued a statement accusing Mr. Saleh of being an al-Qaida collaborator for allowing suspected al-Qaida militants to overrun a southern town where the ammunition factory explosions killed about 150 people on Monday.

Militants raided the factory near the southern town of Jaar Sunday and left it open for local residents, who began looting the building a day later when the blasts happened, apparently ignited by someone who dropped a cigarette. Women and children were among those killed.

The Yemeni government has said al-Qaida is responsible for the disaster, accusing the group of laying a "trap" for the looters.

The Yemeni opposition also listed a series of demands Wednesday, including the ouster of Mr. Saleh and the formation of a five-member presidential council to lead the country for a six-month transitional period.

The opposition also called for the dissolving of Yemeni sate security forces and the closure of the information ministry.

President Saleh has offered to hand over power after new elections are held, possibly before the end of his current term in 2013. The opposition has dismissed his offers as political maneuvering.

Western and Arabic news agencies quote sources in Yemen as saying Mr. Saleh is proposing a new solution to the crisis in which he would stay in office but transfer powers to a caretaker government chaired by the opposition until elections are held.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.

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