SANA, Yemen — Struggling to hold power after many of his allies abandoned him, Yemen's longtime leader on Wednesday escalated his confrontation with a rapidly expanding uprising and took on emergency powers that give him a freer hand to quell protests.
A legislature full of his supporters granted President Ali Abdullah Saleh's request for a 30-day state of emergency, which suspends the constitution, bars protests and gives security forces far-reaching powers of arrest.
The opposition called the vote illegal and vowed to press on with its campaign to topple Saleh's regime.
The move underlined Saleh's desperation in the face of month-old protests that have attracted tens of thousands across his impoverished nation in the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. This week, Saleh's regime was hit by a wave of defections by military commanders, ruling party members and others, swelling the ranks of the opposition and leaving the president isolated. He has repeatedly sought to appease the protesters but to no avail.
The state of emergency declaration appeared to signal that Saleh intends to dig in and try to crush his opponents. The decree allows media censorship, gives wide powers to censor mail, tap phone lines, search homes and arrest and detain suspects without judicial process.
Al-Jazeera said Yemeni authorities closed its office in Sana on Wednesday after 20 armed men ransacked the bureau the day before.