Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh says the majority of the people are behind him, even as the country’s top army generals and tribal leaders abandon his government and side with the protesters.
President Saleh made his comments Monday, a day after firing his entire Cabinet. The announcement also follows comments Monday by another of his prominent generals, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who announced his support for what he called the “peaceful revolution of the youth.”
Tanks deployed across the capital, Sana’a, following the general’s message, and Yemen’s defense minister was due to appear on TV to say that the defections are against the constitution.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the use of live ammunition by security forces and said the government has an obligation to protect civilians.
Leaders of the president’s own tribe have joined calls for his resignation, while tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered for funerals of anti-government protesters shot dead by Saleh loyalists on Friday.
The mourners Sunday joined a mass funeral procession in the Yemeni capital for some of the 52 people killed when pro-Saleh gunmen opened fire near Sana’a University two days earlier. Yemen’s government withdrew armed police from areas near the procession and replaced them with a largely unarmed force in an apparent bid to ease tensions.
The head of Saleh’s Hashed tribe, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, issued a joint statement with prominent clerics late Saturday, holding the Yemeni president responsible for the killings of the protesters. They demanded that he resign the post he has held for 32 years.
Saleh declared a nationwide state of emergency Friday, shortly after the deadly crackdown on protesters in Sana’a. The killings drew condemnation from the United States and the United Nations.
The violence also has prompted more government officials to quit. Yemen’s Human Rights Minister Huda al-Ban and Yemeni Ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Alsaidi resigned Sunday in protest of Friday’s shootings. Several other ministers and ruling party lawmakers also have quit in recent days.
Saleh has offered to hold a dialogue with the opposition on a new constitution and promised to step down at the end of his term in 2013. Opposition groups and activists have rejected those gestures.