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Yemen Tribal Leaders Back Protesters

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Saleh in the southern city of Taiz, April 14, 2011

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh defended his leadership in a speech to supporters Friday in the capital, Sana'a, amid continued pro and anti-government protests.

President Saleh told his supporters that their presence indicates his "constitutional legitimacy." Meanwhile, a rival demonstration took place elsewhere in the capital, as well as in other cities.

Late Thursday, a group of religious and tribal leaders announced they had sided with protesters calling for President Saleh's resignation. They released a statement urging the president to respond to the peaceful demands and to step down quickly.

Opposition leaders have insisted that Saleh resign within two weeks.

Earlier this week, they rejected an offer from Gulf states to mediate a transfer of power. They said the plan would protect the president and his family from prosecution and did not provide a timeline for Mr. Saleh's departure.

Clashes between Yemeni security forces and opposition activists have killed more than 100 people since the protests began in late January.

Protesters have said they are frustrated by problems that include rampant corruption and soaring unemployment. Even before the anti-government unrest erupted, Yemen was battling a separatist rebellion in the south and al-Qaida elements in the country.

President Saleh has ruled Yemen for the past 32 years.

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

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