Protesters pray in Yemen, U.N. envoy pushes for peace

Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:46am EST
 

SANAA (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Yemeni worshippers gathered in Sanaa for Friday prayers, demanding Ali Abdullah Saleh be tried for alleged use of violence against demonstrators, as a U.N. envoy struggled to reach a deal to ease the president out of office.

As protesters marking the "Friday of Female Martyrs of the Revolution" held prayers in the capital's Sixty Street, U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar met opposition officials to try and broker a deal to end months of protests that have paralyzed the country.

"The martyrs wrote with blood, Saleh must be tried," the crowds chanted before the Friday prayers began.

Armed soldiers loyal to a dissident general who defected to the opposition earlier this year guarded demonstrators as they filled the main street, where a Muslim preacher called on the Arab League to impose sanctions on Saleh and recognize a council set up by the opposition as a representative body.

"We urge the Arab League to freeze Yemen's membership, as it did with the Syrian regime, and recognize the National Council as the legitimate representative," the preacher said.

Opposition leaders met Benomar again on Friday after talks late into the night on Thursday, but an opposition official said there was no progress on efforts to get Saleh to sign the Gulf initiative power transfer deal, designed to remove him after 33 years in office.

STAND-OFF

The Gulf initiative grants Saleh immunity from prosecution and allows him to keep his wealth.

The opposition says Saleh has been demanding changes to the initiative that would effectively allow him to retain most of his powers during a transitional period until new elections, a demand rejected by demonstrators and the opposition.   Continued...