Reporting from Cairo — The unrest in the Middle East spread to impoverished Yemen on Thursday as tens of thousands of protesters angry over unemployment and political oppression marched through the capital against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Instability in Yemen is a major concern for Washington, which has been working with Saleh's government to defeat an entrenched Al Qaeda network that claimed responsibility for last year's attempted bombings of planes over U.S. airspace. Officials fear anarchy in the country would give militants a strategic base in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.
Saleh, whose widely corrupt government has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has been unable to stem unemployment and improve education, healthcare and sanitation in the region's poorest nation. Anger has been steadily growing against him, especially from young activists and tribal leaders. He also faces an intensifying secessionist movement in the south.
"We will not accept anything less than the president leaving," independent parliamentarian Ahmed Hashid told the Associated Press.
Some protesters joked that Ali should "go the way" of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, who fled his country after weeks of mounting protests.