Yemen's Saleh calls for early elections, violence goes

Sep 25, 2011, 2:33 p.m.
A still image taken from video shows Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaking during his first televised speech since he returned to Yemen after more than three months in Saudi Arabia, September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Yemen TV via Reuters TV

Western and Gulf states have urged Saleh to end his 33 years in power and sign the Gulf-brokered power transition plan.

"We are at war in Yemen," said Yemeni analyst Hassan. "Every side is using everything it can ... I don't see good things coming, from either side."

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah also called for the adoption of the Gulf plan and urged restraint. "We believe the Gulf initiative is still the only way out of the Yemeni crisis," he said in published remarks.

Diplomats and Yemeni politicians watching Saleh's speech saw little to indicate that this time he was near signing a deal.

"All I saw was stalling, stalling, stalling ... now we just have to hope the violence stays contained," said one senior diplomat who has been involved in negotiations.

Two soldiers were killed in fighting in the commercial center Taiz and a third was killed in Abyan province earlier in the day, officials said. Soldiers killed two tribal fighters and wounded 18 anti-government protesters in and near Sanaa, adding to fears of an all-out civil war.

In Sanaa, soldiers used live rounds against thousands of protesters chanting "God is great, Freedom" as they marched out of their protest camp into the capital's busy streets.

"I saw soldiers from above, in buildings and on the bridge," said Mohammed al-Mas, 21, a protester whose back was drenched in blood from a gunshot wound. "Then the gunfire started and I ran back, but I suddenly felt the shot in the back."

Medics said two of the 18 wounded were in critical condition. Doctors spattered with blood worked on bullet wounds at a makeshift hospital in "Change Square," the name protesters have given to their shanty town of tents in the middle of Sanaa.

The U.N. Security Council urged Yemen on Sunday to allow more access to humanitarian aid. Doctors treating protesters say they are running low on medicine and the International Committee of the Red Cross says its workers have been threatened and assaulted.

(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy and Sami Aboudi in Cairo and Dhuyazen Mukhashaf in Aden; Writing by Angus McDowall and Amran Abocar; Editing by Tim Pearce)

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