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US Condemns Yemen Violence, Urges Peaceful Transition

Anti-government protesters carry the bodies of fighters loyal to opposition tribal chief Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, who were killed during clashes with security forces, during a mass funeral in Sana'a, June 3, 2011

The United States is strongly condemning the upsurge in violence in Yemen including Friday’s shelling attack on the presidential compound in Sana'a that wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The State Department called for an immediate end to hostilities and fulfillment of a Gulf peace plan that calls for President Saleh’s departure.

Officials say they’re still trying to establish the facts of Friday’s attack on the presidential compound. But they say it is clear that the fighting must end and that the Yemeni leader needs to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council plan under which he is to transfer power and leave the country under immunity guarantees.

The level of violence in Yemen has mounted amid President Saleh’s refusal to implement the GCC agreement he initially accepted last month.

The country, wracked for weeks by anti-government protests and violent responses from security forces, has been tipping toward civil war, with anti-Saleh tribesman battling loyalist troops in Sana'a and elsewhere.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said the United States strongly condemns all the “senseless” acts of violence in the last 24 hours including the attack on the Saleh residence.

“We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities. All parties must end these attacks and avoid any further escalation or any further casualties in the days ahead. Clearly the deteriorating situation in Yemen can only be addressed through a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. And so we again call on President Saleh to move immediately to heed the calls of the Yemeni people,” Toner said.

The United States has repeatedly called for President Saleh’s departure in recent days. But spokesman Toner dismissed as “absurd” a suggestion by officials loyal to the Yemeni leader, after Friday’s attack, that U.S. officials incited his attempted assassination.

Toner said the U.S. focus has been to work with the Yemeni government and President Saleh in support of the GCC plan, which he said still provides “the best way forward” for the troubled country.

The Yemeni leader, he said, should live up to his commitment and sign the GCC document.

The spokesman said all U.S. embassy personnel are safe and accounted for after Friday’s violence, but that security for staff members in Sana'a is under constant review.

A week ago, the State Department ordered non-essential embassy personnel and all family members to leave the country, and it is advising private Americans in Yemen to depart while commercial transportation is still available.