(See EXTRA and MET for more on Middle East unrest.)
June 19 (Bloomberg) -- Yemeni religious clerics called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster, joining demands from protesters that the embattled leader step down.
The clerics urged Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi to establish a caretaker government to run the country and prepare for presidential elections in 60 days, according to an e-mailed statement yesterday signed by 110 clerics.
The statement said Saleh is unable to perform his job and must step down. Saleh is recuperating in Saudi Arabia after surgery for injuries sustained during a June 3 bombing of a mosque in his presidential compound in Sana’a, the capital. The state-run Saba news agency reported yesterday that Saleh’s health is improving and he will return to his country soon.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the U.K. advised all British nationals to leave Syria immediately amid an unrelenting government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that has killed more than 1,200 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Twenty-five people were killed during protests June 17, Al Arabiya television reported, citing an unidentified Syrian human rights activist.
“Our advice is very clear: Because of the current situation, we advise against all travel to Syria,” the Foreign Office in London said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad yesterday entered the village of Bdama near the Turkish border, arresting residents and setting homes on fire, Al Arabiya television reported.
Protests against the Syrian ruler began in mid-March, part of demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa this year that have unseated the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, while fighting rages in Syria and Libya.
In Libya, the country’s prime minister called for “new” negotiations between the government and rebel leaders to resolve the conflict, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported yesterday, citing the premier, Baghdadi Mahmudi.
Forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi fired rockets at the port and center of Misrata June 17, attacking the besieged western city for the first time since government units were pushed out of the urban areas on May 12.
NATO said the Libyan leader is “brutally attacking” his people and using mosques and children’s parks as shields for military operations, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
Western and Arab leaders are demanding an end to Qaddafi’s four-decade rule, and NATO aircraft are targeting his forces in a military campaign about to enter its fourth month.
Qaddafi, in an audio message aired on state television June 17, vowed that his forces will defeat the air campaign of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“We don’t want to negotiate, we are resilient even if they strike with atomic bombs,” Qaddafi said. “We will provoke them to use atomic bombs, let them strike with atomic bombs.”
NATO yesterday confirmed that an airstrike June 16 hit opposition forces fighting troops loyal to Qaddafi near Brega. The military vehicles, including tanks, were deemed a threat to civilians and were targeted by NATO aircraft, NATO said in a statement on its website.
“We regret any possible loss of life or injuries caused by this unfortunate incident,” NATO said.
--With assistance from Alaa Shahine in Dubai, Aida Alami in Cairo, Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid and Nadeem Hamid in Washington and Caroline Alexander in London. Editors: Ann Hughey, Christian Thompson.
To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Dodge in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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