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Yemen president rejects demand to step down

Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh refuses to step down as demonstrations continue against his regime

AP , Monday 21 Feb 2011
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh pauses during a meeting with his supporters, in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday 20 February 2011. (AP)
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Yemen's president rejected demands that he step down and said Monday that the widespread demonstrations against his regime were unacceptable acts of provocation, though he renewed calls for talks with the protesters.

After a week and a half of marches that have left nine dead, President Ali Abdullah Saleh told a news conference that he ordered the army to fire at demonstrators "only in case of self-defence."

Saleh has ruled the poorest of the world's Arab countries for three decades but the widespread demonstrations are putting heavy pressure on the US ally.

Protesters are occupying a major square in Sanaa but Saleh said those who oppose his regime are not more than 200,000 people, compared to Yemen's population of roughly 25 million.

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