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Yemen troops gun down protesters

Military forces and police snipers have opened fire on marchers calling for the removal of Yemen's embattled president, killing at least 12 people.

The bloodshed in the southern city of Taiz - part of an intensifying crackdown on the opposition - underscored the resolve of president Ali Abdullah Saleh to cling to power even as protest crowds resist attacks and former allies call for his 32-year rule to end.

It also showed the challenges facing behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts to quell the nearly two-month-old uprising in a nation that Washington considers a frontline battleground against al-Qaida's most active franchise.

"We will stand as firm as mountains," Saleh told a gathering of pro-government tribesmen.

In Taiz, witnesses described troops and gunmen, some on rooftops, firing wildly on thousands of protesters who marched past the governor's headquarters in the city's second straight day of violence.

Some protesters - including elderly people - were trampled and injured as marchers tried to flee, witnesses said.

Saleh has been a key ally of the US, which has given him millions in counter-terrorism aid to fight al-Qaida's branch in the country, which has plotted attacks on American soil.

So far, Washington has not publicly demanded that he step down., but the diplomatic efforts are a clear sign that the Americans have decided the danger of turmoil and instability outweighs the potential risks if Saleh leaves.

Mustafa al-Sabri, a spokesman for a coalition of opposition parties, said US and European diplomats had been in contact with Saleh. They also asked opposition leaders for their "vision" for a transition.

In response, the opposition over the weekend gave the Americans a proposal that Saleh step down and hand his powers to his vice president, who would then organise a process to rewrite the constitution and hold new elections, Mr al-Sabri said.


From Belfast Telegraph