Tens of thousands of protesters massed on Feb. 3 at Yemen’s Sana’a University for a “day of rage” against Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule—while government loyalists flooded the city’s central square in support of the embattled president. With Saleh supporters, some of them armed, taking over Tahrir Square the previous night, protest organizers were forced to change the planned venue of their demonstration. From early morning they drove through the streets publicizing the new site over megaphones, saying that “the men of the ruling party and their armed elements are holding Al-Tahrir.”
In a bid to defuse the protests, Saleh a day earlier officially shelved plans to change to constitution to allow him to rule indefinitely. He also said he was opposed to hereditary rule, a response to suspicions that is grooming his eldest son Ahmed Saleh, who commands an elite unit of the Yemeni army, to succeed him as president.
Mohammed al-Sabri of the Common Forum opposition alliance said Saleh’s call to halt protests was “unacceptable.” However, he said the group would “discuss the president’s announcement.” (Middle East Online, Feb. 3)