Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh denounced on Friday a Qatari call for him to step down as “blatant interference” in Yemen’s domestic affairs.
"We take our legitimacy and power from our great nation, not from anyone else ... the Qatari initiative is rejected, rejected and rejected. We reject what comes from Qatar or Al Jazeera," Saleh told a crowd of his supporters in the Yemeni capital.
He also dropped a hint that he could reject the latest initiative from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and urged it to respect the choice of Yemenis. "We call on them to respect the choice of millions of Yemenis who have taken to the streets to express their adherence to their democratic and constitutional rights. We reject plotting against democracy and political approach," the president said.
Increasing pressure on Yemen's Saleh
To avoid misinterpretation of his words, a source at the presidential office who did not want to be identified, later said that Saleh welcomes ongoing GCC mediation efforts, especially by Saudi Arabia, but rejects the statement of the Qatari prime minister which urged him to resign.
On the " Friday of Harmony,” a large number of Saleh supporters paraded through the capital, waving flags and holding placards showing support for the president. The government also mobilized its own supporters with thousands of protesters turning out at Sabeen Zone, shouting their loyalty to Saleh and chanting “People want Ali Abdullah Saleh.”
The official media claimed that soldiers loyal to Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer, an army general who defected to the opposition, killed two pro-government protesters on Friday when they returned from attending Saleh's rally.
Pro-democracy protesters staged their own rally near Sanaa University, where they have been holding daily protests for more than two months, vowing they will not leave until Saleh steps down. The protesters said they rejected any initiative that did not include immediate departure of Saleh and his regime. The "Friday of Steadfastness" was nonviolent in the capital and no scuffles were reported.
In the central city of Taiz, two protesters were shot dead and tens were injured Friday as police tried to disperse a rally heading toward the governor’s office. Those injured suffered from breathing problems as a result of inhaling tear gas. Last week security forces killed 17 people who were part of a crowd that tried to storm the administrative headquarters of the governorate.
In the port city of Mukalla, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the city shouting slogans calling for Saleh to leave office. The protests ended at the city’s Cornice. The demonstration was peaceful.
In the rebel stronghold of Saada, crowds of pro-democracy protesters gathered in the capital city (of the same name) chanting slogans against Saleh's regime and calling for his ouster. The province is administrated for all practical purposes by the rebels who seized control of the area recently.