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Yemen army generals back protesters

Three Yemeni army commanders have joined the opposition in calling for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule, as army tanks and armoured vehicles were deployed in Sanaa in support of thousands of protesters.

It appears that Mr Saleh's support is eroding from every power base in the nation - after his own tribe urged him to step down, he fired his entire cabinet ahead of what one government official said was a planned mass resignation, and his ambassador to the UN and human rights minister quit.

The defecting officers belong to Mr Saleh's Hashid tribe. A Hashid tribal leader said the tribe, eager to keep the president's job for one of its own, was rallying behind one of the men, Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, as a possible replacement.

General Al-Ahmar, the most senior of the three officers, is a long-time confidant of Mr Saleh and commander of the army's powerful 1st armoured division. Units from it deployed in a major square in Sanaa where protesters have been camping out to call for the president to step down.

The two other officers are Mohammed Ali Mohsen and Hameed al-Qusaibi, who both have the rank of brigadier. Yemen's ambassadors to Jordan, Syria and parliament's deputy speaker also announced they were supporting the opposition, further undermining Mr Saleh's authority.

News of the defections came a day after crowds flooded cities and towns across Yemen to mourn dozens of protesters killed on Friday when security forces opened fire from rooftops on a demonstration in Sanaa.

Mr Saleh's crackdown on a month-long uprising against his rule has grown increasingly violent - suggesting he is becoming more fearful that the unprecedented street protests could unravel his three-decade grip on power.

He also tried unsuccessfully to calm the protest by pulling back riot police.

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