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Two protesters killed in Yemen

Forces loyal to Yemen's embattled president have opened fire on protesters demanding his removal, killing two demonstrators at two separate rallies and wounding at least 10 people at a third protest, activists said.

The latest violence came as a Gulf Arab proposal for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down appears increasingly doomed, raising prospects of more bloodshed and instability in a nation already beset by deep poverty and conflict.

Yemen's unrest erupted more than two months ago, inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The near-daily protests against Saleh, the country's ruler of 32 years, have demanded he relinquish power immediately.

Activist Ibrahim al-Budani said the latest deaths came during anti-Saleh protests in Ibb and in the central city of Al-Bayda on Monday.

In the city of Ibb, 120 miles south of the capital Sanaa, demonstrators set fire to two cars used by government-paid thugs who shot at them but the attackers managed to flee, he said.

In the southern city of Taiz, presidential guard troops, who are run by Saleh's eldest son, fired bullets and tear gas into tens of thousands of protesters gathered there, according to activist Nouh al-Wafi.

Another activist, Bushra al-Maqtari, said at least 10 protesters were wounded by gunshots in Taiz, some of them critically. He said the troops prevented ambulances from getting to the wounded, and that several people and local journalists were arrested.

On Saturday, Saleh agreed to a formula by the Gulf Co-operation Council for him to transfer power to his vice president within 30 days of a deal being signed in exchange for immunity from prosecution for him and his sons.

A coalition of seven opposition parties generally accepted the deal but thousands have remained in a permanent protest camp in Sanaa, and their leaders said they suspected the president is just manoeuvring to buy time and cling to power, as he has done in the past.

More than 130 people have been killed by security forces and Saleh's supporters since the unrest erupted in early February. At least 40 were killed in a single attack on March 18 by rooftop snipers overlooking Change Square in Sanaa.

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