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Emergency law approved in Yemen

Yemen has brought in sweeping emergency laws after the president asked for new powers of arrest, detention and censorship to crush the uprising demanding his removal.

The move escalates the showdown between Ali Abdullah Saleh and the movement that has unified military commanders, religious leaders and protesting youth in demands for his immediate departure.

The state of emergency suspends the constitution, allows media censorship, bars street protests and gives security forces 30 days of far-reaching powers to arrest and detain suspects without judicial process.

Youth leaders at the square that has become the epicentre of the protests dismissed the move.

"It is the revolution that now decides the future of the nation," said Jamal Anaam, one of the protest leaders. We pay no attention to the measures."

The accelerating conflict has raised fears that Yemen could be pushed into even greater instability. Rival factions of the military have deployed tanks in the capital, Sanaa - with units commanded by one of Mr Saleh's sons protecting the president's palace, and units loyal to a top dissident commander protecting the protesters.

The adoption of the state of emergency was a virtual certainty because Mr Saleh's ruling party dominates the 301-seat legislature. Opposition and independent politicians stayed away from the parliamentary session along with dozens from Mr Saleh's own ruling party.

There was no breakdown available of the vote, which was done by a show of hands amid chaotic scenes. Some questioned whether the chamber had the necessary 151 members present when it voted.

Mr Saleh, who has worked closely with a US offensive against the Yemeni branch of al Qaida, has already dramatically increased his crackdown on anti-government demonstrators, with his security forces shooting dead more than 40 protesters on Friday in Sanaa.

On Tuesday he offered to step down by the end of the year, but the opposition rejected his offer.

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