Protests continued in Yemen on Saturday, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in Taiz and in the capital city of San'a. Police responded to demonstrations with tear gas and gunfire, killing one person and injuring dozens more.
Yemeni officials accused the protesters of deliberately provoking violence.
Demonstrators are calling for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 30 years. The demonstrations in Yemen have taken a decidedly Islamic tone, with protesters shouting “There is no god but Allah” and, according to the New York Times, wearing shirts bearing the slogan “Project Martyr” in Arabic.
More than 660 people have been killed in riots in Yemen since mid-February, according to the officials in the United Nations' International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). UN officials expressed “grave concern” over the ongoing violence.
Six Gulf states – Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates – are working to restore stability to Yemen by reaching a deal between young protesters and the government. However, the states' latest proposal caused anger in Yemen.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamed bin Jassem said the six hope to convince Saleh to step down as president.
Saleh had previously said that he would be wiling to step down as part of a peaceful transition of power, and has agreed not to run for office again when his term ends. But Yemen's government responded to the Qatari Prime Minister's remarks with anger, and recalled Yemen's ambassador to Qatar in protest.
Two of the Gulf states trying to mediate in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, are themselves facing protest movements at home. Bahrain has drawn international criticism for its harsh repression of Shiite minority demonstrations.
Even before the latest violence, the United States, France and other Western countries were concerned that Yemen could become an Al-Qaeda stronghold, according to the Wikileaks website. Diplomats in Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt expressed similar fears. In Saudi Arabia, officials predicted that Yemen would become Al-Qaeda's “main home.”
President Saleh has cooperated with the U.S. and Europe in the war on Al-Qaeda and terrorism.