Yemen's youth activists list reform demands

SANA, Yemen — The youth groups that began a monthlong uprising said Thursday that they wanted a new constitution and the dissolution of Parliament, local councils and Yemen's notorious security agencies in addition to the immediate ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh rejected the offer, instead lashing out at the protesters threatening his 32-year rule. "We will cling to constitutional legitimacy, and we will preserve the security, independence and safety of the Yemeni republic with all means possible," he said.

The widening demands of the "Civil Coalition for Peaceful Revolution," an umbrella group for several pro-reform organizations, reflect the perception that Saleh's regime has been badly weakened by weeks of unrelenting protests and the defection to the opposition of a number of powerful officials, including members of the president's inner circle.

The organizers said they hope several million people will turn out for prayers today in public squares and follow them with demonstrations against Saleh.

On Thursday night, security forces deployed heavily throughout the capital, raising the specter of confrontations.

Youth group leaders also said they want to limit future presidents to two four-year terms in office and to create an interim presidential council of nine civilians to run the country until legislative and presidential elections are held.

Sheik Sinan Abu Lohoum, 80, leader of Yemen's largest tribe, sided with the opposition, calling on Saleh to step down immediately and refrain from further violence against protesters. His decision came Thursday in a statement issued from the United States, where he is receiving medical treatment.

Lohoum's Baqeel tribe is the larger of two that follow the Zaidi offshoot of Shiite Islam. The other — Saleh's own Hashid tribe — has already backed the opposition.

Syria

The Syrian government pledged Thursday to consider lifting some of the Mideast's most repressive laws in an attempt to stop a weeklong uprising in a southern city from spreading and threatening its nearly 50-year rule. The promises were immediately rejected by many activists who called for demonstrations today in response to a crackdown that protesters say killed dozens of antigovernment marchers in the city of Daraa. There were no reports of new deaths in Daraa, but unrest there continued, with massive crowds shouting "Syria, freedom!" as they marched toward one of the agricultural hub's main cemeteries to bury the dead, according to an activist in touch with people in the city.

Bahrain

Critics of the Bahrain government called for widespread rallies today in defiance of the country's recent imposition of martial law, raising the possibility of further violence in the tiny island kingdom nine days after a bloody crackdown against protesters and opposition leaders. Nine rallies were planned around the capital, Manama, said Mohammed Meskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, which is serving as an information clearinghouse about the rallies.

Jordan

Protesters and supporters of Jordan's king clashed in the capital of Amman late Thursday, and about 35 people were hurt in one of the most violent incidents in three months of demonstrations. About 2,000 Jordanians demanding government reforms joined an encampment at a central square. They were attacked by about 300 supporters of King Abdullah II, who threw rocks at the demonstrators, injuring some of them.

Information from the Associated Press and McClatchy Newspapers was used in this report.

Yemen's youth activists list reform demands 03/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 10:34pm]

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