Via Al Jazeera
Opposing political camps rally in Yemen while protesters vent anger after prayers in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Bahrain.
Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have held rival rallies in the capital, Sanaa.
Protesters outside Sanaa University repeated slogans demanding that the country’s longtime president, step down, chanting: “The people demand the downfall of the regime.”
About 4 km across town, loyalists shouted support for a leader they said was holding the fractured and impoverished tribal country together. “The creator of unity is in our hearts. We will not abandon him,” they chanted.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sanaa on Friday, said: “Hundreds of thousands of government loyalists and pro-democracy activists have converged on main squares of Sanaa, Taez, Hadramawt, Ibb, Saada and Hodeidah.”
“An impressive surge in rallies in the country,” he said.
‘Anarchy and killing’
Saleh said on Wednesday he had ordered his security services to protect protesters, stop all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between government supporters and opponents.
Seventeen people have died in the past nine days in a sustained wave of nationwide anti-Saleh protests galvanised by the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents. Saleh has said he will not give in to “anarchy and killing”.
An interior ministry statement late on Thursday ordered security forces to “raise their security vigilance and take all
measures to control any terrorist elements” who might take advantage of the protests to infiltrate Sanaa.
He is also trying to maintain a shaky truce with northern Shia Muslim fighters and contain a secessionist uprising in
the south against northern rule.
State news agency Saba said Saleh has also assigned a committee headed by Ali Mohammed Megawar, the prime minister, to open a dialogue with protesters to hear their demands.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Egypt’s new military rulers, promising to guard against “counter-revolution”, faced political pressure on Friday to purge the cabinet of ministers appointed by Hosni Mubarak, the deposed president, as thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo.
On the eve of the rally that will also celebrate two weeks since Mubarak’s removal, the military, which has promised
elections within six months, assured Egyptians there would be “no return to the past” of the Mubarak era.
At a gathering at Tahrir Square, which was also to remind the military of the people power that ended Mubarak’s 30-year rule, activists urged the military to overhaul the newly appointed cabinet and install a fresh team of technocrats.
Protesters want Mubarak to be put on trial and for Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik to be fired.
“Friday is another day of protest to bring together Egyptians who bravely ousted Mubarak but still struggle as
remnants of the old regime try to hang on and ruin the revolution,” Sameha Metwali, an activist, said.
Day of anger
On Friday, Jordan deployed more than 3,000 security personnel across central Amman, braced for a planned “day of anger” by a powerful opposition movement and other parties.
“More than 3,000 members of different security services were in the business district in anticipation of the march,” a senior security official said.
The Islamic Action Front (IAF) expected around 10,000 of its members as well as supporters of 19 political parties to march in call for reforms, in what they hoped would be the largest protest since January.
In the run-up to Friday’s rally, dozens of supporters of the Hashemite royal family gathered outside Al-Husseini Mosque, in the heart of Amman.
Anti-government demonstrations in Jordan erupted last month to protest against the rising cost of living, and demand economic and political reforms.
In Bahrain, protesters thronged teh capital, Manama, to demand the end of the ruling Sunni government.
Tens of thousands of protesters headed for Pearl roundabout, the epicentre of daily demonstrations since February 14, chanting: “The people want to topple the regime!”
Some of the protesters carried megaphones, blaring slogans and speeches as the protest made its way towards the roundabout, renamed “Martyrs’ Roundabout” in honour of the seven victims of a deadly police raid on a protest last week.
Signs around the square on Friday signalled that the protests were far from over: “We will not accept any dialogue with he who kills us in cold blood,” declared one banner.
Beyond the Middle East, in North Africa, Tunisians gathered for fresh protests to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi’s transitional government set up after last month’s ouster of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Demonstrators chanted “Ghannouchi leave” and “Shame on this government” as army helicopters circled above the crowd massed in the Kasbah government quarter, where police estimated that the number of people topped 100,000.
Ghannouchi’s caretaker government, tasked with leading Tunisia to elections due in about five months, has faced regular protests demanding it expel remnants of the old government.