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In Yemen's Tahrir Square, progrovernment crowds counter 'day of wrath'

In Yemen's capital of Sanaa, progovernment demonstrators – thought to have been brought in by the government – carried posters of President Saleh, plastered their SUVs with posters of President Saleh, and ostentatiously declared their love for President Saleh.

By Laura KasinofCorrespondent / February 3, 2011

Yemenis chant slogans and hold banners during a demonstration against the government, in Sanaa, Yemen, on Feb. 3. Thousands of opponents of Yemen's government and its supporters are demonstrating in the capital and other cities a day after the president pledged not to seek another term in office.

Hani Mohammed/AP

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Sanaa, Yemen

The day after Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he would not run for president in upcoming elections, the main square in Yemen’s capital Sanaa became a base camp for supporters of the Yemeni government.

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They carried posters of President Saleh, plastered their SUVs with posters of President Saleh, and ostentatiously declared their love for President Saleh. Men traveled into Sanaa in droves ahead of Thursday's demonstrations from areas known for progovernment sentiment to stage a counterprotest to a major opposition demonstration that had been dubbed Yemen’s “day of wrath.”

“I am here today to support the President Ali Abdullah Saleh. We want to force unity. The opposition wants to break the unity of this country,” says Saleh Mutayer, from the Khowlan region, while standing in front of a large white tent.

The gathering of counterprotesters, widely believed to have been brought in by the government, might look like an echo of the events in Cairo, where progovernment thugs battled antigovernment demonstrators in Tahrir Square. But many Yemenis say it's standard political maneuvering from Yemen's president to make it appear as if pro-Saleh regime sentiment is still strong.

Today’s rallies, with thousands participating on each side, come one day after Saleh responded to mounting political pressure by announcing a number of reforms in front of an emergency session of parliament. The session culminated in a promise that he would not run for president again in the upcoming 2013 election.

Progovernment demonstrators say they welcome Saleh's announcement as proof of democracy. But instead of quelling discontent, Saleh’s comments seem to have emboldened opposition leaders, weary of broken past promises.

More demonstrators came out than last week, and the protesters appeared much more riled up. Men shouted “God is great” following speeches delivered by opposition leaders and yelled in agreement to declarations that the regime’s corruption must come to an end.

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