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Thousands in Yemen Demand President Step Down

SANAA — Thousands of students and lawyers demanding Yemen's president step down clashed on Monday with baton-wielding riot police and security forces who threw up razor wire to force them out of the centre of the capital Sanaa.

In Monday's protests, shouts of "No corruption after today," reverberated through the narrow streets, while some demonstrators brandished banners reading: "The people want to oust the regime" -- slogans used by protesters in Egypt. An AFP journalist said more than 3,000 protesters marched from Sanaa University towards Al-Tahrir square calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

City streets around the square echoed to chants of "After Mubarak, Ali," referring to the ouster of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak who quit after 18 days of protests by hundreds of thousands of Egyptians centred on Cairo's main square, also named Tahrir.

Saleh has been in power for 32 years, two years longer than Mubarak.

Besides clashing with police, some in plainclothes, pro-Saleh demonstrators also battled the protesters near the square, witnesses said.

Sanaa has been the scene of near-daily protests since January and last week supporters of the president took over Tahrir square, erecting tents to try to thwart the protesters.

On Sunday, riot police used batons to disperse a demonstration by an estimated 2,000 demonstrators in Sanaa, injuring a woman and making 10 arrests, according to witnesses.

In Monday's protests, shouts of "No corruption after today," reverberated through the narrow streets, while some demonstrators brandished banners reading: "The people want to oust the regime" -- slogans used by protesters in Egypt.

Further south in the city of Taez, police wounded eight protesters in Taez as thousands of people demonstrated against Saleh.

An agreement to resume talks, suspended since October, between the government and the parliamentary opposition has failed to halt the demonstrations.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch criticised what it termed the government's use of force in dispersing the protests.

"Without provocation, government security forces brutally beat and tasered peaceful demonstrators on the streets of Sanaa," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW director in the Middle East and North Africa region.

"The government needs to take full responsibility for this abuse."

According to the rights group, "dozens of pro-government thugs... arrived and attacked the demonstrators" on Sunday using "batons, military assault rifles, and teargas guns."

"Members of the security forces used batons to beat at least 20 demonstrators on their heads and backs, and beat and kicked others. They attacked two demonstrators with electro-shock tasers," witnesses were quoted as saying.

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