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Updated: March 23, 2011 03:28 IST

In Yemen, Saleh warns of civil war

AFP
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An anti-government protestor shouts slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa,Yemen, on Monday. Photo: AP.
An anti-government protestor shouts slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa,Yemen, on Monday. Photo: AP.

"I don’t wish and will not accept the transfer of power to the military," Mr. al-Sufi quoted Mr. Saleh as saying. "The military institution remains united. The era of coups is gone."

Yemen's embattled President warned on Tuesday that a coup attempt could spark civil war, as pressure mounted for him to step down and two soldiers were reported killed in a clash between rival units.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, meanwhile, warned that Yemen's political crisis could distract attention from its fight against Al-Qaeda.

With tanks deployed on the streets of the capital, President Ali Abdullah Saleh warned in an address to his top brass: “Any attempt to reach power via a coup will lead to a civil war in the country.”

Mr. Saleh, who since January has faced mass protests across Yemen calling for his ouster, also said at the meeting broadcast on state television that “any division in the armed forces will have a negative impact on the whole country”.

Medics and witnesses said two soldiers died in a clash between the regular Army and the Republican Guard, an elite force loyal to Mr. Saleh, in the south-eastern city of Mukallah.

The two forces clashed near a presidential palace in Mukallah late on Monday, witnesses said.

Mr. Saleh's son Ahmed commands the Republican Guard, while other family members head other elite units.

On the Army side, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who commands the northwest region covering Sana'a, eastern region commander General Mohammed Ali Mohsen, and other officers on Monday pledged support for the protesters.

Army's stance

General Ahmar told AFP that Mr. Saleh was “under pressure to accept an opposition plan for a peaceful transition, including his departure before the end of 2011”. Most protesters, however, have rejected any such compromise, calling for Mr. Saleh to step down immediately. The President himself insists on serving out his term until 2013.

The defections continued on Tuesday, as one after another, soldiers and officials announced their support for the “youth revolution” at the square near Sana'a University where protesters have kept vigil since February 21.

A slew of Ambassadors and other officials have either resigned or pledged their support for protesters since last week, while leading Muslim clerics have called for Mr. Saleh to “respect the will of the people” and step down

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