Tens of thousands of people joined a funeral procession on Sunday for protesters killed by government gunmen and the Yemeni President's own tribe called on him to step down, robbing the embattled U.S.-backed leader of vital support.

Yemen's Ambassador to the United Nations and its Human Rights Minister resigned to protest the crackdown, further undermining President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Experts said the President's dwindling influence was likely to either accelerate his departure or force him to resort to greater violence to retain power.

Mr. Saleh appeared to shy away from more force for the moment, disbanding police and special forces around Sana'a University, which has been the centre of the deadly crackdown, and replacing them with a largely unarmed force. “From now on, we will be controlling the entrances and exits of the square by orders from the supreme military command,” said Lt. Col. Mohammed Hussein.

Friday was the bloodiest day of the month-long uprising against Mr. Saleh, and government snipers killed more than 40 protesters. The violence drew condemnation from the U.N. and the United States, which backs his government with hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to battle a potent Al-Qaeda offshoot based in Yemen's mountainous hinterlands. Some of the country's most important religious leaders have also joined in the call for Mr. Saleh's resignation.

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