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Yemen’s Saleh To Quit; Activists Say Protests Go On
Protesters say they will stay on streets until Saleh goes; President would hand over power a month after deal signed; Opposition welcomes plan, which gives Saleh immunity
April 24, 2011 10:28 by Reuters
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed to step down within weeks in return for immunity from prosecution, putting him on course to become the third veteran Arab leader toppled this year by street unrest.
Protesters, who have taken to the streets in their tens of thousands for months to demand the end of his nearly 33-year rule, said they would not stop street demonstrations until he leaves office once and for all.
Scores of demonstrators demanding Saleh’s overthrow have been killed in months of unrest among young Yemenis inspired by the wave of rebellion across North Africa and the Middle East that brought down the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
“There is still one month until the president resigns and we expect him at any moment to change his mind,” said activist Mohammed Sharafi. “We will not leave the arena until Saleh goes and we achieve our goals of setting up a modern, federal state.”
Ibrahim al-Ba’adani, an opposition activist in the city of Ibb, said he was “surprised” that the formal opposition had accepted the principle of immunity for Saleh.
“We will continue sit-ins until the president goes,” he said.
Yemen, with 23 million people, is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, and demonstrators accuse Saleh of corruption and mismanagement during his decades in power. He took power in North Yemen in 1978 and presided over its unification with the separate state of South Yemen in 1990.
In recent years he has positioned himself as an ally of the United States against al Qaeda, while also battling Shi’ite rebels in the north of the country and separatists in the south.
His opponents accused him of using the country’s perpetual security crisis to entrench his inner circle. Harsh crackdowns on street demonstrations only further angered the protesters.
By Mohamed Sudam and Mohammed Ghobari