Yemen president rejects quit calls

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Yemeni anti-government demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen

Yemen’s president has rejected demands to step down and said widespread demonstrations against his regime are unacceptable acts of provocation.

However, he renewed calls for talks with the protesters.

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

Mr 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 the capital, Sanaa, but Mr Saleh said those who oppose his regime are no more than 200,000 people out of Yemen’s population of roughly 25 million.

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