Yemen fighting erupts as UN urges Saleh to go
SANA’A – REUTERS (AdenOnline)
At least 10 people were killed in fighting between Yemeni government forces and opposition fighters in the capital Sana’a on Saturday, residents and witnesses said.
The Yemeni government also said it was ready to “deal positively” with a resolution approved by the UN Security Council on Friday that urged President Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign a deal requiring him to step down in exchange for immunity. The UN condemned the government’s crackdown on protesters who are demanding that Mr Saleh end his 33 years in office.
A spokesman for opposition parties and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which has been trying to mediate, welcomed the resolution.
In the violence, residents said five civilians and five opposition soldiers had been killed and dozens wounded in the north of Sana’a. Rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and automatic weapons were used in the al-Hasaba, Soufan and al-Nahda neighborhoods.
In the overnight clashes, forces loyal to Mr Saleh fought soldiers led by Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a general who broke ranks with Mr Saleh after protesters began almost daily demonstrations in February. Gunmen loyal to the tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar were also involved.
Witnesses said heavy smoke rose over the neighborhoods and many buildings had been destroyed. Officials said government forces retook the upper house of parliament (Shura Council) building in northern Sana’a, after it was occupied by opposition troops.
In a statement issued on Friday night, General al-Ahmar’s Free Yemen Army accused Mr Saleh of ordering an attack on northern Sana’a neighborhoods the previous night. He said that attack had lasted for more than 20 hours and 21 people had been killed, including eight civilians and 13 soldiers.
The government says Mr al-Ahmar’s forces started the fighting.
Mr Saleh says he will only hand over power into “safe hands.” Responding to the decision made by the UN Security Council, a government source said Sana’a remained committed to the Gulf peace plan, and called for international help to ensure its implementation.
“The government of the Republic of Yemeni is willing to deal positively with UN Security Council resolution 2014, for it conforms with the Yemeni government efforts to put an end to the political crisis on the basis of the GCC initiative,” a government source said in a statement obtained by Reuters.
Mr Saleh has backed down three times from signing the Gulf initiative, which came after months of protests.
The government statement urged Gulf Arab states, Europe and other members of the international community to help resume talks between the government and opposition parties to agree on a mechanism for implementing the GCC accord.
Mohammed Qahtani, a spokesman for an alliance of opposition parties, called the UN resolution a good first move and said the alliance was ready to help see it implemented. “It is a step in the right direction, and we welcome it,” Mr Qahtani told Reuters.