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Yemen opposition rejects call for unity government

From Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
Yemeni protesters called for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital Sanaa on Monday, February 28.
Yemeni protesters called for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital Sanaa on Monday, February 28.
  • NEW: 3 security officers killed in recent protests, official news agency reports
  • Yemen's main opposition bloc rejects calls for a unity government
  • President Ali Abdullah Saleh has called for a coalition government to end protests
  • Opposition groups are calling for demonstrations against Saleh's rule on Tuesday

(CNN) -- Yemen's main opposition bloc on Monday rejected President Ali Abdullah Saleh's call to form a unity government to rule until elections to replace him, saying its goal is simply "the fall of the regime."

"The opposition will not enter a unity government with the ruling party and will stand with the demands of the people," said Mohammed Al-Qubati, the spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties.

Saleh is under increasing pressure to resign from youth groups, opposition leaders and even members of his own powerful tribal group, all of whom have called for demonstrations Tuesday against his continued rule.

Saleh met Monday with Muslim scholars and members of opposition groups to discuss the possibility of forming a coaltion government that would rule until elections to replace him, according to two Yemeni government sources.

But the sources said no agreement had been reached and none was expected on Monday.

On Saturday, leaders of two prominent tribal groups, the Hashid-dominated National Solidarity Council and the Baqil tribe, said they would send members to join the protests calling for Saleh's resignation. Saleh is a member of the Hashid tribe.

A day later, the Joint Meeting Parties called for demonstrations on Tuesday. That's the first time it has called on its supporters to take to the streets since February 3, which had been branded a day of rage -- a common term for the mass protests that have spread across the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Opposition to Saleh has solidified in the wake of violent confrontations between security forces and protesters on Friday, when thousands of anti-government protesters demonstrated in Sanaa, Aden and elsewhere.

The clashes left four people dead and 26 wounded, according to medical officials. Amnesty International said it had reports that 11 people died in Friday's protest, bringing the overall death toll since protests began to 27.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Mutahar al-Masri said that three members of security forces died and 10 were wounded in recent protests, according to the official Saba news agency.

Saba, citing an unnamed security source, has previously said the government denied shooting protesters.

Saleh did not appear to be wavering in his intention to remain in office. He spoke to military leaders Saturday, saying there was a plot against Yemeni unity and saying protesters in Aden were causing damage out of "selfishness."

Saleh has ruled Yemen since 1978 and has promised not to run for re-election in the next round, but protesters have increasingly argued that nothing less than his resignation will be acceptable to them.

The country has been roiled by a Shiite Muslim uprising, a U.S.-aided crackdown on al Qaeda operatives and a looming shortage of water. High unemployment fuels much of the anger among a growing young population steeped in poverty.

The protesters also cite government corruption and a lack of political freedom.

Journalist Hakim Almasmari contributed to this report.

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