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Yemen tribe urges leader to quit

The Yemeni president's own tribe has called on him to step down after a deadly crackdown on protesters, robbing the embattled US-backed leader of vital support in a society dominated by blood ties.

Some of the country's most important religious leaders joined in the call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh's resignation, and his human rights minister announced she was quitting as tens of thousands joined a burial procession for some of the more than 40 protesters killed by government gunmen on Friday.

The Yemeni president was later reported to have fired his Cabinet amid escalating protests demanding him to step down.

The massive crowds flooded into Sanaa University's square in the capital and huge solidarity demonstrations were held across the country in regions including Aden, Hadramawt, Ibb, Al-Hudaydah, Dhamar and Taiz.

"We hail with all respect and observance, the position of the people at the (Sanaa University) square," Sheik Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of Saleh's Hashed tribe, said in a joint statement with the religious leaders issued after a meeting at his home late on Saturday.

Opposition parties taking part in the procession said they had have changed their position from demands for political reforms to calls for Saleh's removal.

"Our only choice now is the removal of the regime soon. We stand by the people's demand," opposition leader Yassin Said Numan said.

Human Rights Minister Huda al-Ban said she was stepping down to protest over the government's "horrible, coward and perfidious crime".

The bloodiest day of the month-long uprising against Saleh prompted condemnation from the UN and the US, which backs his government with hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to battle a potent al Qaida offshoot based in Yemen's mountainous hinterlands.

Health Minister Abdul-Karim Rafi said the killing of protesters was "a crime unacceptable by logic" and could not be justified. He said 44 protesters were killed and 192 wounded, 21 critically.

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