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Yemen's parliament agrees to impose emergency law

Yemen's parliament has voted in favor of imposing emergency law, backing a request by President Saleh. It comes after the opposition rejected his offer to step down by January 2012, calling on him to go immediately.

Protesters in Yemen

Anti-goverment protests in Yemen are spreading

Yemen's parliament has agreed to impose a 30-day-long emergency law, backing a move by embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh as he tries to reimpose his authority on the country in the face of widespread anti-government protests.

The law would suspend the country's constitution, ban protests and give security forces the authority to make arbitrary arrests.

On Tuesday the opposition rejected Salah's offer to step down by January 2012, after organizing parliamentary elections that would pave the way for presidential polls, saying he should go immediately.

Saleh warned that the country could break apart, telling military commanders, many of whom have broken ranks with his regime and joined the anti-government protesters, that Yemen could descend into civil war.

"Those who want to climb up to power through coups should know that this is out of the question. The homeland will not be stable, there will be a civil war, a bloody war. They should carefully consider this."

In a blow to his authority, a number of leading diplomats and high-ranking military officials defected earlier this week and said they were joining the protesters and their cause.

The country's ambassador to Syria, Abdel Wahab al-Tawaf, announced his resignation in protest at the violent government crackdown in the wake of similar defections last week.

Two senior military officials also pledged to support the protesters along with dozens of other officers.

An anti-government protestor shouts with blood on his hands during clashes in Sanaa, Yemen

Dozens of people were killed Friday during protests in Yemen's capital, Sanaa

Dozens of protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces and several journalists and activists have been arrested.

Pressure from Europe

Saleh was also facing increasing international pressure to resign. At a European Union foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels, French Prime Minister Alain Juppe called Saleh's departure unavoidable.

"We say to Yemen, where the situation is worsening, we believe today that the departure of President Saleh is unavoidable," Juppe said.

The international community is concerned that the political crisis could distract from efforts to combat al-Qaeda which has used Yemen as a base for attacks on Western interests in the region.

Author: Rob Mudge (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Michael Knigge

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