Yemeni leader orders troops to protect protesters, loyalists

Yemeni leader orders troops to protect protesters, loyalists

Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries, has been hit by mass anti-government riots for nearly two weeks demanding the end of Saleh's 30-year rule. At least two people have been killed in the clashes with police, RIA Novosti reported.

"Ali Abdullah Saleh instructed all security services to thwart all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between pro- and anti-government protesters," Al Arabiya quoted an official statement.

"The government...will continue to protect the rights of its citizens to assemble peacefully and their right to freedom of expression," the statement said. Facing pressure from the opposition, Yemen's embattled leader pledged in early February he would not seek to run in 2013 when his presidency expires and his son would not succeed him as president, RIA Novosti said.

However, he said Feb 21 he will not resign under pressure and only defeat at elections would make him quit. Saleh also blamed the opposition for refusing to hold a national dialogue and "raising the ceiling" of their demands.

Inspired by the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, a wave of mass anti-government protests and violence continued in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Algeria, and other nations.