Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh today called for parliamentary and presidential elections once an agreement with the opposition over a Gulf Cooperation Council plan was brokered by his vice president.
“We have talked repeatedly about the peaceful transfer of power through the ballot boxes,” the president said in a televised address on the eve of Yemen’s Revolution Day. “We repeat today that we are committed to the Gulf initiative and to implementing it as it is signed by the vice president.”
Saleh said he supported the “legitimate demands” of political parties and Yemeni youth, adding that some groups are committing “crimes” to seize power and wealth.
Fireworks were fired in the skies of Sanaa following his speech to celebrate the Revolution Day. Earlier, Saleh’s forces opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters, wounding 17 protesters, three of whom are in critical condition, by live rounds, said Mohammed Qubatai, a doctor at the field clinic at the protest camp dubbed Change Square. Forces loyal to the president killed four protesters in Sanaa today, according to reports from Al Jazeera television.
In Libya meanwhile, forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi staged on offensive on the city of Ghadames in the western part of the country, killing 10 today and wounding 25 others, Al Jazeera television reported.
Libyan opposition forces renewed their assault on the coastal city of Sirte, the Qaddafi’s hometown, after announcing the creation of their first joint military union.
Fighting in Libya
At least seven people were killed and 145 wounded yesterday as fighters attacked loyalist positions in and around the city according to the military council in Misrata, which is leading the operation. Forces from the towns of Hun and Waddan moved north to join the offensive and Sirte “is now under full siege from the south,” the council said in a statement.
In Taiz, Yemen’s second-largest city and hotbed of anti- Saleh uprising, five people were killed and eight others were wounded early today in clashes and shelling of the city by government forces. The Interior ministry said in a statement carried by the state-owned Saba news agency that two soldiers were killed and five others wounded seriously in an ambush in the city.
Violent crackdowns have intensified in recent days after Yemeni protesters vowed to escalate calls for an end to Saleh’s three-decade rule. At least 150 people have been killed in two weeks of fighting. Saleh returned to Yemen on Sept. 24 after spending almost four months in Saudi Arabia where he was receiving treatment for injuries he suffered in an attack on his compound.
Demonstrations began in the Arab world’s poorest country in February, inspired by revolts that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, and deepened as military and tribal leaders joined the opposition. Efforts by Gulf Arab countries to broker a power-transfer agreement have failed.
Upon his return, Saleh called for a truce amid fighting between government troops and opposition forces demanding his ouster that has killed thousands this year.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of Sanaa and Taiz today to denounce the death of almost 50 people in two days of clashes with government forces. Yemeni authorities “appeared to have lost effective control of parts of the country and within the major cities,” the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report. It warned that Yemen faced civil war.
Unrest escalated last week after the Organization Committee of the Popular Youth Revolution urged Yemenis to intensify protests.
Saleh, 69, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, became leader of North Yemen in 1978 and has ruled the Republic of Yemen since the north and south merged in 1990. He has repeatedly said that his immediate departure could lead to chaos and a four-way split of the country.
--With assistance from Ola Galal in Cairo and Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid in Washington. Editors: Digby Lidstone, Carlos Torres
To contact the reporters on this story: Vivian Salama in Abu Dhabi at email@example.com; Mohammed Hatem in Dubai at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com.