Yemen Opposition Calls for Peaceful Protests

Yemen’s opposition leaders called for peaceful anti-government rallies today that will underscore their opposition to the kind of violence that has gripped the capital this week.

Sporadic gunfire yesterday followed gun battles in the north of Sana’a that began on May 23, pitting the security forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh against members of the Hashid tribe, whose leader Sadiq al-Ahmar has joined the demonstrators. The main Joint Meeting Parties opposition and the protest leaders say such violence hurts their cause.

The clashes, the most sustained violence since anti-Saleh protests began in January, followed the president’s refusal to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered accord that provides for him to step down within 30 days. The opposition and Saleh’s supporters have accused each other of attempting to ignite a civil war.

Community groups should back a “peaceful revolution, thwarting attempts to trap Yemenis into fighting with each other,” the Joint Meeting Parties said in a statement late yesterday.

The government called for an “order and law” rally today that will highlight loyalty to Saleh, state-run Saba news agency said yesterday.

In a May 25 briefing with reporters, Saleh called the protests a rebellion against his rule. The president, whose term ends in 2013, has said he’s willing to hold early elections, a call the opposition has so far rejected. The Joint Meeting Parties initially accepted the GCC plan, though leaders of the street protests dismissed it and said Saleh must quit immediately.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday that the GCC plan “offers the chance for peaceful progress in Yemen” and urged Saleh to sign it. The U.S. and the U.K. have cut back staff at their embassies in Yemen amid the latest fighting.

To contact the reporters on this story: Donna Abu Nasr in Sana’a at dabunasr@bloomberg.net. Mohammed Hatem in Taiz at mhatem1@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.

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