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Yemen legislators endorse Saleh’s state of emergency

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Yemeni lawmakers endorsed a 30-day state of emergency, backing President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s crackdown on growing anti-government protests.

The decision comes after dozens of lawmakers in the 301- member parliament abandoned Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress. At least three ministers resigned this week in protest against the violence, and senior military officers including Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, commander of the first armored division, switched sides. At least four lawmakers said they abstained in the voting today.

Thousands of protesters in the capital, Sana’a, renewed their calls for Saleh to step down today as legislators arrived to vote. At least 46 people have died and scores were injured in the capital on March 18 as police and snipers opened fire in the worst violence since the unrest started two months ago, prompting Saleh to declare the state of emergency. The wave of regional protests has already driven longtime rulers from power in Tunisia and Egypt, and unleashed a civil war in Libya.

Efforts to oust Saleh, a U.S. ally against al-Qaeda, have gained momentum since the March 18 violence. In an address on state television yesterday, Saleh said that military officials who have joined the protest movement should “return to reason.” The president is “ready to leave power by the end of the year after a new government based on a parliamentary election is formed,” his press secretary, Ahmed al-Sufi, said.

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