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Yemeni President Calls for Early Elections, Protests Continue

Yemeni children, chant prayers with female anti-government protesters, during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sana'a, Yemen, May 19, 2011.

Yemen's president called for early elections during a speech to supporters in the capital Sana'a on Friday, as thousands of opponents renewed demands for his immediate resignation.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh said early presidential elections could avoid "bloodshed." However, he did not specify when the voting would take place.

As he spoke, anti-government protesters rallied at another location in the capital. The dual rallies took place after a deal, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to end Yemen's unrest stalled for a second time.

On Wednesday, the GCC ended an effort to get Saleh and opposition leaders to sign a plan that offers Saleh immunity from prosecution if he transfers power to a deputy within 30 days of signing.

News organizations quoted Yemeni officials as saying Saleh objected to at least one of the opposition figures who had planned to sign the deal.

Last month, similar plans to sign the agreement stalled after Saleh refused to sign in his capacity as president, as required. He said he would only sign as head of the ruling General People's Congress party.

Meanwhile, the GCC announced plans to meet on Sunday to discuss Yemen's political crisis. Ministers in the six-nation council will meet in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

There are conflicting reports as to whether a final deal will be brokered and signed by both sides.

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

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