Seven die in Yemen as opposition awaits GCC details

At least seven people are killed in continuing violence in Yemen as the opposition waits for a clarification from mediators on when the president would be expected to transfer power.

A man walks past burning tyres in Aden, Yemen, yesterday; protesters say one person was killed there during clashes with army troops.
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SANA'A// At least seven people were killed in Yemen yesterday, including four policemen, as the opposition awaited clarification from mediators on when the president would be expected to transfer power.

Gulf Arab foreign ministers have said they will invite the country's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his opponents to talks to end a standoff after two months of protests. The opposition initially rejected the plan, but met ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman on Tuesday to seek clarification. An opposition source said talks could begin as soon as Saturday in Riyadh.

At least five people were killed in Sana'a in clashes between police and troops loyal to a general who defected. One protester was killed in Aden as a general strike hit three cities.

Fighting broke out late Tuesday in the capital between rival troops. One officer from the 1st Armoured Divison commanded by Maj Gen Ali Mohsen al Ahmar was killed. Gen al Ahmar defected last month and his troops are now trying to protect the anti-regime protesters.

Colonel Abdullah al Sharabi was killed and three other soldiers were wounded, according to a source in Gen al Ahmar's office. A security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said at least four police officers loyal to Mr Saleh were killed.

However, an interior ministry statement denied reports the security men were killed and said that a number of policemen were wounded, without giving details.

Artillery and rocket-propelled grenades were used in the fight, according to residents living near the Sana'a checkpoint where the rivals fought.

The clash erupted when police forces backed by armoured vehicles moved to control the checkpoint amid anti-government protests.

This was the first confrontation between the rival troops since Gen al Ahmar, who is a member of the same tribe that Mr Saleh hails from, the Sanhan, defected and called for Mr Saleh to step down. The general's defection encouraged dozens of high-profile regime officials to resign.

In Aden, one protester was killed and nine others injured yesterday when army troops moved to open main roads barricaded by protesters who called for a general strike, according to witnesses.

Medics said that two protesters, including a 15-year-old, were in serious condition. They said one was shot in the head and the other in the face.

Aden was paralysed yesterday as shops were closed and streets were empty after workers and students appeared to abide by the general strike called for by anti-Saleh protesters.

The strike also was observed in Taiz and al Baidah.

In the city of Ibb, at least 15 protesters from Ibb University were injured when police and armed government supporters fired live ammunition in the air and hurled stones at the protesters, local sources said.

About 125 protesters have been killed since the protests began on February 11.

Hundreds of thousands continued to protest yesterday in about 15 provinces to demand an immediate end to Mr Saleh's 32-year rule.

In Taiz, hundreds of thousands marched for several kilometres until they reached Freedom Square, where tens of thousands have been camped out for more than two months.

A group of young protesters climbed a billboard decorated with Mr Saleh's picture and burnt it amid the applause and shouts of the protesters, according to witnesses.

Meanwhile, the European Union foreign affairs council meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday urged Mr Saleh to "take without delay concrete steps to enable a credible and peaceful political transition in Yemen."

In an e-mailed statement released yesterday, the council expressed its "utmost concern at the deteriorating situation in Yemen" and "strongly condemns the new wave of violence and repression against peaceful demonstrators and deeply deplores the further loss of life."

It called on "Yemeni authorities to abide by their responsibility to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons, including their freedom of expression, to ensure their safety and prevent further bloodshed."

The statement said the EU welcomes the GCC mediation proposal.