Yemen leader postpones US trip as pressure mounts

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Sanaa, Feb 14 (AFP) Yemen''s president, under pressurefrom protests calling for his overthrow, has postponed a visitto the United States as the opposition agreed to resume talkswith the government.

"President Ali Abdullah Saleh has decided to postponea visit to the United States... scheduled for late Februarydue to the current developments in the region," an official inhis office said yesterday, quoted by state news agency Saba.

The two countries would to set a new date, thestatement added.

The Yemeni opposition meanwhile agreed to resume talkssuspended since October with the government, as pressure roseon the regime in the wake of protests calling for thepresident''s overthrow.

The Common Forum, an alliance of parliamentaryopposition groups, is "ready to sign a framework agreementthis week...on (resuming) the national dialogue," it said, ina statement received by AFP.

It said the draft deal calls for the formation of aunity government and the inclusion in the dialogue of thesecessionist Southern Movement, the Shiite rebels of northernYemen and opposition members in exile.

Talks would resume from the point at which they weresuspended on October 31, said the Common Forum, groupingAl-Islah (Reform), which is Yemen''s main Islamist opposition,the Yemeni Socialist Party and other smaller factions.

"We urge the authorities to learn a lesson from whathappened in Tunisia and Egypt," where massive revolts by thepeople forced out their respective leaders, it said.

The opposition warned of a "popular uprising" inYemen, a country they said was weighed down by "corruption,poverty, unemployment, repression, injustice and tyranny."

Protests similar to those that brought down leaders inTunisia and Egypt have been held in Yemen since mid-Januarycalling for Saleh to step down.

Riot police used batons to disperse a protest by anestimated 2,000 demonstrators in Sanaa yesterday, injuring awoman and making 10 arrests, according to witnesses.

Police also used batons in the southern city of Taezto break up a protest in the main square, arresting 120demonstrators, participants told AFP.

The Common Forum urged Saleh to prove his goodwill bydismissing his family members and relatives holding top postsin institutions such as the Yemeni army, police, governmentand regional councils.

Under opposition pressure to stand down, Saleh, inpower for 32 years, said on February 2 his son would notsucceed him.

He also announced a freeze on constitutionalamendments that could have enabled him to stay in office forlife. (AFP)

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