Yemen govt supporters tighten grip on Sanaa square

SANAA- Supporters of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh tightened their control of Sanaa's central square on Friday, after crowding out a planned opposition rally there the previous day, an AFP correspondent said.
Tents, national flags and portraits of Saleh were erected across Al-Tahrir Square, which was occupied by hundreds of supporters of the ruling Popular Congress General (GPC) and patrolled by members of the security forces.

Tens of thousands of Saleh loyalists flooded the square on Thursday in a show of support for the embattled president, forcing the opposition to move its planned anti-regime rally to the University of Sanaa, about two kilometres (1.2 miles) away.
"Our supporters will continue to hold rallies and demonstrations at Al-Tahrir Square until the parties of the Common Forum (a parliamentary opposition alliance) drop their extreme demands," GPC spokesman Tariq al-Shami told AFP.
Secret police were deployed in the buildings surrounding the square, which include an office of the intelligence service, a security source told AFP.
The authorities seemed intent on depriving the opposition use of the central Sanaa square, where activists have organised popular protests since mid-January, inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Despite the switch in venue, vast crowds turned out at the university on Thursday for the anti-regime rally, with one speaker vowing that protests would continue to "bring down a corrupt and tyrannical regime."
The demonstration was staged in spite of concessions announced by Saleh, who on Wednesday called for dialogue with the opposition, pledging not to stand for re-election in 2013, nor to transfer power to his son, Ahmed Saleh, who commands an elite army unit.
Elected to his current seven-year term in September 2006, Saleh renewed calls on the opposition to resume dialogue aimed at forging a government of national unity.
Clashes erupted during previous protests against Saleh, including on January 29 when dozens of activists calling for his ouster battled regime supporters, but Thursday's demonstrations passed off peacefully.

Saturday, February 5th 2011

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