Thousands rally against government in Yemen

Sanaa (Yemen), Jan 27 (AP) Tens of thousands of peopleare calling for the Yemeni president''s ouster in protestsacross the capital inspired by the popular revolt in Tunisia.

The demonstrations led by opposition members and youthactivists are a significant expansion of the unrest sparked bythe Tunisian uprising, which also inspired Egypt''s largestprotests in a generation.

They pose a new threat to the stability of the Arabworld''s most impoverished nation, which has become the focusof increased Western concern about a resurgent al-Qaidabranch, a northern rebellion and a secessionist movement inthe south.

Crowds in four parts of Sanaa have shut down streetsand are chanting calls for an end to the government ofPresident Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for nearly32 years.

"We will not accept anything less than the presidentleaving," said independent parliamentarian Ahmed Hashid.

Opposition leaders called for more demonstrationstomorrow.

"We''ll only be happy when we hear the words ''Iunderstand you'' from the president," Hashid said, invoking astatement issued by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Alibefore he fled the country.

Saleh has tried to defuse simmering tensions byraising salaries for the army and by denying opponents'' claimshe plans to install his son as his successor.

After the Tunisian turmoil, he ordered income taxesslashed in half and instructed his government to controlprices. He deployed anti-riot police and soldiers to severalkey areas in the capital, Sanaa, and its surroundings toprevent riots.

That hasn''t stopped critics of his rule from taking tothe streets in days of protests calling for him to step down,a red line that few dissenters had previously dared to cross.

Nearly half of Yemen''s population lives below thepoverty line of USD 2 a day and doesn''t have access to propersanitation. Less than a tenth of the roads are paved. Tens ofthousands have been displaced from their homes by conflict,flooding the cities.

The government is riddled with corruption, has littlecontrol outside the capital, and its main source of income -oil - could run dry in a decade.

Saleh''s current term in office expires in 2013 butproposed amendments to the constitution could let him remainin power for two additional terms of ten years. (AP)

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