Yemen protesters hold rival rallies

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Pro- and anti-regime activists held rallies on Friday as loyalists celebrated news that Yemen’s president was out of intensive care in Riyadh after treatment for bomb blast wounds. Tens of thousands of protesters demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s replacement by an interim ruling council massed at Sanaa’s “Change Square” and nearby Sittin Street to push for a quick transition of power. Large numbers of Yemenis loyal to the embattled leader, meanwhile, gathered a few kilometres (miles) away at Sabbeen Square to celebrate after state media said Saleh was making a quick recovery and out of intensive care at a Saudi hospital. “The people want a new Yemen,” shouted anti-regime protesters. “The people want a transitional council,” their chants rang across Sittin Street, which has since January been hosting weekly anti-Saleh demonstrations. Saleh has not been seen in public since he was wounded in a bomb attack on his presidential compound on June 3 and there have been conflicting reports about his health since he was flown to Riyadh last Saturday for treatment. The attack itself was an assassination bid, likely an “inside job” using an explosive device, not a mortar or shells as initially reported, according to US experts. STRATFOR, a US-based authority on strategic and tactical intelligence issues, said its assessment was based on an evaluation of photographs taken of the blast site, a mosque inside Saleh’s presidential compound in Sanaa. A Saudi official said the 69-year-old Yemeni president’s health was “stable” and was waiting for doctors to fix a date for cosmetic surgery. Saleh would undergo an operation to treat “light burns on the scalp”, he said. Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi also insisted Saleh was in good condition and would return to Yemen within days. As Saleh’s health reportedly improves, however, his opponents have been pressing his deputy to establish an interim ruling council to prevent him from returning to power. But a government official ruled out any transfer of power before the return of the veteran president. “It is impossible to talk about a transition of power before the return of the president,” deputy information minister Abdo al-Janadi told reporters on Thursday. Saleh has come under mounting international pressure to quit as five months of protests have drawn powerful tribes into the conflict, sparking deadly fighting with loyalist security forces on the streets of Sanaa.