March in your millions on Saleh's palace, Yemenis urged

Organisers of Youth Movement say marchers will not retreat under any circumstances in march on palace of President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Tuesday to throw him out of office.

Anti-government protesters march near burning tyres during a demonstration to demand the departure of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz yesterday.
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SANA'A // Millions of Yeminis were urged yesterday to march to the palace of President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Tuesday and throw him out of office. The organisers of the protesting Youth Movement said the marchers will not retreat under any circumstances.

"President Saleh is benefiting with every day that passes as he is working on weakening the youth revolution," the movement said in a statement. "By marching to the presidential palace, we will surely achieve victory and the revolution will prevail."

Protesters demonstrated yesterday in Sana'a and Taiz. Security forces shot at the demonstrators in Taiz, killing at least one, a medical source told Agence France-Presse.

In Sana's, one protesters was killed and 52 were wounded as security forces and plainclothes gunmen fired at thousands of protesters, witnesses said.

Demonstrators left University Square towards the district that hosts the government headquarters, said Tawfiq al -Himyari, one of the organisers.

"Snipers took part in attacking the protest," another witness said.

Yesterday's youth movement statement coincided with a GCC meeting in Riyadh, which youth believe has ignored the demands of the Yemeni revolution. "The Saudi, Gulf, and US stance work on weakening the Yemeni revolution and they are in favour of President Saleh. We will solve the crises in our own way," said Mohammed Mubarak, 23, an activist with the Youth Movement.

The call for the march, however, was not welcomed by all young protesters. Some feel that it will lead to more bloodshed. "We are against the Saleh regime, but we know that security forces will not allow the march to reach the palace," said Abdul Salma Jabri, one of the first female protesters in Sana'a. Yemen's biggest opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), has not openly supported the march, fearing they would be blamed for violence that might erupt.

"The youth are in charge and they know what is in their best interest. They will lead and we will follow," said Ali Jaradi, an Islah party official. "We will not call for a march as opposition, but we will march as revolution supporters."

Some opposition officials say the timing of the march is bad. Some factions of the youth movement do not endorse the march and "this could cause chaos and differences from within the protesters", said Ahmad Bahri, the head of the political office in the Haq party.

During the last two months, attacks against anti-Saleh protesters have decreased dramatically in the capital, largely due to the security the protesters are getting from military personnel who defected from the army with Gen Ali Mohsen Ahmar, Yemen's most powerful military leader.

The soldiers who defected, however, protect the demonstrators only in the main square, not elsewhere in the city.

Some protest leaders worry that regime soldiers will use violence to stop marchers on Tuesday.

"The military have orders to defend anti-Saleh protesters in Change Square with all their power," said Ali Abdul Jabbar, the director of Dar Ashraf research organization. "Their orders do not include protecting them while marching. This is where we expect a massacre or a retreat of marchers."

Youth protesters wanted the international community to know that the march to the palace is their last option. They cite Saleh regime attacks on protesters in Taiz and Hodieda this week. "We do not want to march, but the Yemeni revolution is entering its 100th day and Saleh has still not gotten the message," the statement said. "With every day that passes, more people are killed by President Saleh's government."

Mr Saleh's ruling party, the General Peoples Congress, is taking the march threat seriously and has called on its supporters to assemble near Siteen Road, which leads to the Presidential Palace. Abdul Nasser al Qiafi, a tribal leader loyal to Mr Saleh, said: "President Saleh has the majority of Yemenis on his side. Their march is illegal and Saleh reached power constitutionally. We will risk our lives for Saleh and ensure that the march to the palace fails."

Tribal sources loyal to Mr Saleh said they will create a shield of supporters to halt the marchers. "Hundreds of thousands of tribesmen will start protesting in Saleh's favour starting from Sunday morning, two days before the opposition march," said Sheikh Abdul Hakim Sabri, a tribal leader from Ibb province. "They have marchers and we have marchers. Let the election box be the judge between both sides and not illegal ousting of rulers."

Zaid Thari, an adviser to Mr Saleh, said opposition leaders are allowing young people to enter a deadly trap. "Opposition leaders are weak and afraid. They will stay at home while making the youth risk their lives for them," he said. "That is why President Saleh is sticking to power. He knows that the opposition is destroying the revolution from within."

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse