May 29, 2011 in Nation/World

Deal may calm clashes in Yemen

But push continues for president to quit
Ahmed Al-Haj Associated Press
 

SANAA, Yemen – Yemen’s embattled president and the country’s most powerful tribal leader agreed Saturday to end five days of gunbattles that killed 124 people and pushed the country’s political crisis closer to civil war.

The fighting between forces loyal to both men made the past week the deadliest since mass street protests for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule broke out three months ago. Although it could prevent bloodshed, the agreement will do little to solve the wider crisis, with Saleh rejecting efforts to negotiate his exit.

The week’s battles began when Saleh’s security forces attacked the home of Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the powerful Hasid tribal confederation and an uneasy ally who abandoned the president and joined his opponents. Tribal fighters came to al-Ahmar’s defense and seized a number of government buildings in the Hassaba neighborhood of the capital, Sanaa, during intense clashes.

Fighting then spread outside the capital when tribal fighters seized two army posts north of the city on Friday.

A member of the committee of tribal leaders who brokered Saturday’s deal said the sides had agreed to withdraw their forces from the neighborhood starting this morning.

The mediation committee will take control of the government buildings seized by tribal fighters so civilians can return to the area, the mediator said.

An aide to al-Ahmar confirmed the agreement’s details.

“The committee reached an agreement, and we will abide by it,” he said.

The agreement late Saturday followed steps by both sides to undermine the other, with al-Ahmar calling on security forces to desert the president and Yemeni authorities issuing an arrest warrant for the tribal leader.

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