Yemeni president tries to avert revolution as protests escalate
Rival protesters clashed in Yemen's capital today, with police firing live ammunition into the air.
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Yemen's official Saba news service today quoted an "official source in government" as saying, "There is no longer a reason for incitement and demonstration after the initiative of President Ali Abdullah Saleh for reforms and his call for dialogue to reach the national consensus and understanding on all issues of concern to the nation."Skip to next paragraph
Yemen's Tahrir Square
Already, thousands of tribesmen from pro-Saleh areas outside the capital have set up a base camp in Sanaa’s main Tahrir Square, which shares the same name as Cairo’s main square where protesters gathered day and night until Mubarak fell.
Each morning they hold political rallies, play patriotic songs loudly on microphones, and march around the square, which is being guarded by police chanting that by their soul and their blood they will support the current regime.
Pro-government men say that their presence in the square – where Yemen’s government announced a book fair is being held – is all part of political participation in any healthy democracy. Antigovernment protesters insist that these men have been paid by officials to stay in Tahrir Square, a claim that derives some support from the fact that police were handing out lunch to the crowds one afternoon.
“In Tahrir they give them 2,000 [Yemeni rials, or $9] a day and give them qat,” says activist Mohsin, referring to the mild narcotic that is wildly popular among Yemeni men.
Omar al-Masnah, a pro-government protester who was standing in front of Sanaa University on Tuesday morning in order to prevent antigovernment protesters from gathering, denied allegations that he was being directed by a higher command to show publicly display his support for the regime.
“I swear this is from my heart," says the business student. "Saleh fixed the problems in Yemen between tribes."
However, Albukari of the Yemen Polling Center says that the support for Saleh that is ostentatiously being displayed around the streets of Sanaa during the past week is not representative of how the majority of Yemenis feel.
Just two days ago, the 70-year-old leader met with tribal leaders from neighboring Amran province who “reiterated their commitment to stand in the way of all preachers of sedition, sabotage, and chaos and to defend the homeland and its stability, unity, and democratic approach,” according to Yemen’s official news agency.
“The president wants to make sure that the tribes surrounding Sanaa are more loyal to the Saleh regime,” says Mr. Albukari from the Yemen Polling Center, adding that Saleh doesn't want any competitors.