Thousands demand reforms in Algeria
Heavily outnumbered by riot police, thousands of Algerians defied government warnings and dodged barricades to rally in their capital, Algiers, on Saturday to protest the government of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and to demand democratic reforms. Protesters clashed with baton-wielding police in helmets and visors. Organizers said more than 400 people were briefly detained, but no violence was reported. The opposition said the protest marked a turning point. "The fear is gone," said Ali Rachedi, the former head of the Front of Socialist Forces party. Organizers said an estimated 10,000 people gathered in the city center before the protest was broken up. Officials put turnout at the rally at 1,500. Mustapha Bouchachi, president of the League for the Defense of Human Rights and spokesman for the Coordination for Change and Democracy — the coalition of opposition parties, trade unions and human rights groups behind the protests — said the protesters demanded "the immediate and effective lifting of the state of emergency (in place for 19 years), democratic reform and a change of regime, not a change within the regime." Protests also were held in the cities of Oran, Annaba and Bejaia, among others, but police quickly dispersed the demonstrators.
Security forces beat back protesters in Yemen
Yemeni police with clubs on Saturday beat antigovernment protesters who were celebrating the resignation of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and demanding the ouster of their own president. The crackdown reflected an effort to undercut a protest movement seeking fresh momentum from the developments in Egypt. Hundreds of protesters tried to reach the Egyptian Embassy in Sana, Yemen's capital, on Saturday, but security forces pushed them back. Buses ferried ruling party members, equipped with tents, food and water, to the city's main square to help prevent attempts by protesters to gather there. The demonstrators tore up pictures of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and shouted slogans demanding his immediate resignation. Saleh has been in power for three decades and tried to blunt unrest by promising not to run again. His term ends in 2013. The United States is in a delicate position because it advocates democratic reform, but wants stability in Yemen because it is seen as a key ally in the fight against Islamic militants.
Palestinians to hold elections by September
The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority that controls the West Bank promised on Saturday to hold long-overdue general elections by September, a surprise move spurred by political unrest rocking the Arab world and embarrassing TV leaks about peace talks with Israel. The Islamic militant group Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, ruled out participation, saying the vote was meant to divert attention from the scandal caused by the secret documents uncovered by Al-Jazeera TV last month. Meanwhile, chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat announced his resignation Saturday. Erekat has been widely vilified since Al-Jazeera, citing hundreds of internal documents, alleged that Palestinian negotiators secretly offered far-reaching concessions to Israel.
Italy struggles with Tunisian influx
Italy on Saturday declared a humanitarian emergency on its southern islet of Lampedusa and organized airlifts to the mainland as immigrants from Tunisia streamed in. Nearly 3,000 people, mostly from the North African country, have made their way to the island in just two days, in the wake of recent political unrest in Tunisia that led to the overthrow of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The arrivals have raised the specter of an emergency as migrant camps on Lampedusa were shut down months ago. Some 300 Tunisians aboard at least seven boats arrived Friday night and early Saturday, with more boats sighted. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni voiced concern Friday of an impending migration crisis and the possibility that terrorists could hide among the migrants, taking advantage of the confusion in Tunisia.