Hundreds wounded in Yemen protests

Saleh has rejected calls to step down, saying those who are against him should challenge him in 2013 elections [EPA]

Hundreds of people have been injured in the Yemeni city of Taiz after police used tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protesters in the city’s main square.

Medical officials said more than 600 people were wounded on Sunday in the square where a sit-in had been taking place as part of nationwide anti-government protests.

According to witnesses, police also opened fire above the heads of protesters, and used batons to disperse the crowds.

Medical sources said most of the injuries were from tear gas inhalation. However, there were also reports that some protesters may have been injured by live ammunition.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Sanaa, who is not being named for security reasons, said the main hospital recorded about 650 injured people, with a doctor saying the number is likely to rise.

“The situation is still tense … protesters are still out in force and moving from the main square towards the Taiz governor’s house demanding the resignation of the president.”

‘Peaceful transition’

The protest came a day after an opposition coalition called on Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to his deputy, Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The coalition has released details of their initiative for a peaceful transition of power, according to Al Jazeera’s sources.

As part of his interim duties, they called on Saleh’s deputy to reorganise the central and national security as well as the Republican Guard, the forces currently loyal to Saleh and controlled by his son and nephews.

Hadi was appointed by Saleh as Yemen’s vice-president after the civil war in 1994.

He is well regarded by the opposition, and the negotiations between the president’s advisers and the opposition took place at his house in Sanaa.

By accepting someone from the ruling party to lead in the interim, the opposition appeared to send a message that it is willing to be flexible about finding a solution.

The move is also likely to help the coalition win support of residents of southern Yemen, where Hadi hails from.

The suggestion to appoint him as the country’s leader has come as no surprise, but so far, the president has rejected every offer that requires him to leave office before the end of the year.

There has been no reaction from the president or the ruling party so far.

( / 03.04.2011)

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