Supporters, Opponents to Yemeni President Stage Mass RalliesWorld | March 25, 2011, Friday // 14:46| views
Yemeni army soldiers stand guard at an entrance of the square where anti-government protesters are demanding the ousting of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh after three decades in power, in Sanaa, Yemen. Photo by EPA/BGNES
Tens of thousands of people are attending rival mass rallies of supporters and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen's capital Sanaa, a week after some 50 people were shot dead at a protest.
According to anti-regime protesters, the biggest rally demanding Saleh's resignation is yet to come. They gathered into a square near Sanaa University where they have been camped since February 21, the BBC reported.
In the meantime, supporters of the president set up separate checkpoints nearby. The police also set up checkpoints leading to the venue of the loyalist protest. Soldiers fired in the air to hold back the presidential supporters when they tried to march on the opposition rally.
In a speech, the president for more than 30 years condemned the bloodshed but also urged his supporters to "stand firm". He has denied that government forces had participated in the shooting last week.
"We don't want power but we need to hand power to safe hands, not to sick, resentful of corrupt hands. We are against firing a single bullet and when we give concessions, this is to ensure there is no bloodshed. We will remain steadfast and challenge them with all power we have," Saleh said.
Some of his supporters were reportedly carrying guns and waving flags and traditional Yemeni daggers.
On Wednesday, Yemen's parliament approved a law imposing s 30-day state of emergency, which gives the security forces far-reaching powers to detain suspects and prevent demonstrations.
Saleh warned that the demonstrations might bring Yemen into a civil war.
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