Middle East

Yemen: UN Security Council fails to reach agreement

A protester walks past an army barrier in the southern city of Taiz, Yemen, 19 April, 2011
Image caption More than 120 people have been killed in two months of protests demanding President Saleh step down

UN Security Council members have called for restraint and dialogue between protesters and authorities in Yemen.

But the Council's first talks on the crisis ended in New York without an agreed public statement, with diplomats saying Russia objected.

Security forces earlier reportedly opened fire on anti-government protesters in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and the southern city of Taiz.

Three people died and dozens were wounded in the unrest.

On Wednesday morning, a gunman on a motorbike opened fire on protesters encamped in a square in the western city of Hudaydah, killing one person, protest organisers said.

The identity of the gunman was not immediately clear.

More than 120 people have been killed in two months of protests demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

The Yemeni leader, who has been in power for more than three decades, has said he is willing to hand over power, but only to "safe hands".

More talk

UN envoys in New York were briefed behind closed doors by a representative of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who has just returned from Yemen.

Germany had called for the meeting, hoping, according to its ambassador Peter Wittig, to send a strong message that bloodshed must be avoided and mediation efforts by Arab Gulf Countries should be encouraged.

The details of Moscow's objection remains unclear, but before the talks began Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had warned the Yemeni opposition not to expect western help such as that being afforded to rebels in Libya.

Diplomats also suggested some delegations may have been cautious because this was the first time the Security Council had put Yemen on its agenda, and the situation there was seen as "sensitive and complex".

The council has been hesitant to address the Arab revolts, says the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN headquarters in New York, with members such as Russia and China arguing that these are internal matters.

However, envoys are expected to consult with their governments, adds our correspondent, and the Security Council may meet again to discuss the issue later this week.

Burning tyres

Monday's clashes started in Taiz, Yemen's second largest city, after thousands of protesters took part in a march demanding the president's immediate resignation.

Image caption Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Sanaa on Monday

Security forces fired live rounds and tear gas "indiscriminately" at the crowd, witnesses said. The protesters set up barricades of burning tires.

Later, tens of thousands took to the streets in Sanaa and riot police again opened fire on the protesters, leaving two dead and hundreds injured, medics said.

Protesters threw stones and set fire to one security vehicle in retaliation, witnesses said.

Both Yemeni government and opposition delegations have met Gulf Arab mediators in the region in the past few days, with President Saleh, who initially offered not to seek re-election when his current term ended in 2013, subsequently saying he would step down after holding elections.

But he has warned of possible civil war if he was forced out.

Mr Saleh's weak central government already has little control beyond the capital. In recent years, it has struggled to confront an armed rebellion in the north and a secessionist movement in the south.

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