By Arab News
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah received Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh at his palace on Monday and emphasized the Kingdom’s commitment to a stable, secure and unified Yemen.
“During the meeting Saleh commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to help Yemen overcome the present crisis, realizing the higher national interests of the Yemeni people,” the Saudi Press Agency said.
The meeting was the first since Saleh came to Saudi Arabia for treatment after being wounded in an attack on his Sanaa compound in June. Saleh thanked the king for providing medical treatment for him and top Yemeni officials at Saudi hospitals.
“King Abdullah reiterated Saudi Arabia’s stand in support for a stable, secure, and unified Yemen,” the SPA said, adding that the king hoped the Yemeni people would overcome the crisis.
Saudi Arabia is one of the signatories to a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative that aims for a peaceful transition of power in Yemen.
In the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, soldiers opposed to Saleh exchanged heavy gunfire with government troops on Monday, as violence spiraled during the deadliest crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations since they began eight months ago.
Yemeni security forces, including snipers, killed 28 people in the city on Monday, raising the death toll to 54 over two days.
“Help me, oh my God look at this slaughter!” said a man carrying the bloodied body of his small child, killed by gunfire. “We were just in the car … I stepped out to get some food and left my two boys in the car. I heard the older one scream. My little one was shot straight through the head.”
Witnesses said government forces were trading heavy rifle and missile fire with troops loyal to Gen. Ali Mohsen, who defected to the protesters some months ago.
An escalation from clashes around protests into outright military confrontation in Sanaa has been a major concern for many in Yemen, who fear this will make it even harder to reach a political settlement under which Saleh would hand over power.
“This is only going to get worse,” one man shouted as he fled a new protest camp, staked out by protesters on Sunday night and attacked by snipers on Monday. Troops loyal to Mohsen jumped onto trucks and sped toward the location from where heavy crackling of gunfire could be heard.
“We will come back to protest later. I am afraid, but this is worth dying for,” the man said. He was among hundreds rushing back to the relative safety of protesters’ original sit-in area, dubbed Change Square, where they have camped out for eight months to demand an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule.
Diplomats and Yemeni politicians scrambled to speed up a long-stalled transition plan under which Saleh would hand over power
A source in Yemen’s political opposition said they were meeting with government officials and diplomats to try and push through a deal. UN mediator Jamal bin Omar and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani arrived in Sanaa on Monday and were expected to join the talks.
Al-Zayani was expected to push for a signing of the GCC-brokered transition plan which Saleh thrice backed out of at the last minute. “There’s a possibility of trying to push through the Gulf plan for signing this week,” he said.
Medics said 187 protesters were wounded on Monday after a dramatic escalation in violence which began with a huge anti-government march on Sunday. At least 400 protesters and police have died since the revolt began eight months ago.
Protesters had been planning to ratchet up demonstrations this week. They said they expected a spike in bloodshed as they pushed their marches into areas surrounded by government troops in a bid to re-energize a languishing protest movement.
“We have known that this regime would kill its citizens,” said Manea Al-Mattari, from the Organization Council for the Youth Revolution. “But we know we have to do this, let our blood spill so the world notices how much Yemenis want their freedom.”