SANAA, Yemen – Facing growing calls for his resignation, Yemen’s longtime ruler told tens of thousands of supporters Friday that he’s ready to step down but only if he can leave the country in “safe hands,” while anti-government protesters massed for a rival rally.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke in a rare appearance before a cheering crowd outside his presidential palace in the Yemeni capital.
Across town, an even larger number of people converged on a square in front of Sanaa University chanting slogans calling for his ouster and waving red cards emblazoned with the word “leave” despite fears of more violence a week after government security forces shot dead more than 40 demonstrators in the capital.
Protesters carried through the square the bodies of two protesters hit in last week’s shooting who recently died of their wounds, their coffins draped with Yemeni flags. Demonstrators prayed over the bodies and chanted to the president, “Everyone who falls as a martyr shakes your throne, o Ali!” as the bodies were taken for burial.
Armed with assault rifles, soldiers from units that defected to the uprising patrolled the square to protect protesters. Hundreds of people lined up to be searched before entering, many clad in white robes and turbans, with prayer mats tossed over their shoulders for noontime prayers.
“We are trying to gather as many people as possible here. He needs more pressu… >>>