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Yemeni Army Chiefs Defect to Protesters

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TEHRAN, March 22 (ICANA) – Senior Yemeni military officers and diplomats have abandoned the regime and pledged allegiance to the revolution movement.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 12:50:21 PM
Yemeni Army Chiefs Defect to Protesters

The defections are a boost to morale for anti-government protesters who have been calling for an end to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year grip on power.

Three Yemeni army commanders have now joined the revolution movement, along with dozens of other officers. Among them, one of the most powerful military figures, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. Dozens of interior ministry officers have also resigned, including several ambassadors.

The wave of defections came one day after President Saleh dismissed his entire cabinet. Following the defections, security was beefed up in the capital. Tanks and armored vehicles were deployed on the streets. Later, reports said the president had sent his foreign minister to Saudi Arabia to get Riyadh to mediate with the opposition. This, as Yemen's defense minister re-affirmed his full support for the regime.

The government came under global fire after Friday's deadly shootings at the sit-in near Sana'a University, where protesters have kept vigil since February 21. The shootings left more than 50 people dead.

Meanwhile, a top tribal leader, Sadiq al-Ahmar, has also urged the president to step down, though Saleh insists the majority of Yemenis support him. The President has made major concessions to alleviate the concerns of demonstrators. Before firing his government, he'd pledged to introduce a new constitution and set up a parliamentary system. Saleh has also promised to avoid re-election when his term ends in 2013.

The president's concessions have so far failed to stem the tide of anti-regime rallies. So for now, protests continue, while it remains unclear when, if at all, Saleh will give up power.

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