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As officials abandon him, Yemen president fires Cabinet

The move by President Ali Abdullah Saleh comes as an ambassador and several prominent ministers resign over the bloody crackdown on protests. Defiant protesters hold funerals in Sana.

March 21, 2011|By Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times
  • Mourners in Sana, the Yemeni capital, shout slogans as they carry the coffin of a protester slain in the shooting by pro-government forces Friday.
Mourners in Sana, the Yemeni capital, shout slogans as they carry the coffin… (Khaled Abdullah, Reuters )

Reporting from Cairo — Yemen's embattled president sacked his Cabinet, state media reported Sunday, as many ministers prepared to abandon him in protest over recent attacks on unarmed protesters by his security forces and supporters.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh's representative to the United Nations, the chief of the state-run television channel, key members of his own tribe and three prominent Cabinet members had already announced their resignations.

"It was suspected that his whole Cabinet would resign," said Murad Azzani, a political analyst at Sana University. "Those opposing his rule are not likely to accept any kind of concessions from him at this late stage."

Few have accepted Saleh's denials that government forces were involved in the bloody attack Friday that killed about 50 people and injured hundreds at a long-running sit-in near Sana University. Tens of thousands of people were gathered there to call for his ouster when the assault took place.

On Sunday, protesters carried some of the dead back to the sit-in site for funeral prayers, and thousands chanted anti-government slogans in unison.

"What was their sin?" said Jameel Dhafran, a 23-year-old student. "These young men were killed in cold blood by a regime that has no decency or honor. We will continue, always peacefully, until this government falls."

On the periphery of Sana, the capital, Saleh placed dozens of tanks to guard against "armed groups," a thinly veiled reference to Yemen's heavily armed tribes.

The tribes have so far joined the youth movement to press peaceful resistance. In the country's restive east, the tribes reportedly moved against Saleh by cutting off a major oil pipeline, leading to widespread blackouts in the capital.

Meanwhile in Syria, a nascent opposition movement surged forward Sunday in what appeared to be the biggest challenge to the ruling party since it seized power nearly half a century ago.

Thousands rallied in the southwestern city of Dara to demand an end to 48 years of emergency law. "We are a people infatuated with freedom," marchers chanted, Reuters reported.

Security forces fired tear gas at the protesters and 40 people were taken to be treated for gas inhalation, residents said.

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

A special correspondent in Sana contributed to this report.

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