In several days of protest, student activists and opposition groups in the Arab world's most impoverished nation — buoyed by the example of the popular revolt in Tunisia — have boldly called for the removal of U.S.-allied President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The protests are presenting Yemen's ruler — in power for nearly 32 years — with a new and unpredictable challenge, adding to the threat from an al-Qaida offshoot aiming to topple him, a southern secessionist movement and an on-and-off armed rebellion in the north.
Seeing to quell the new outbursts of dissent, Saleh delivered a televised speech Sunday night describing talk of him aiming to bequeath power to his son as the "utmost rudeness" and insisting the rumors were untrue.
He also announced he was increasing salaries for the armed forces in a step apparently meant to ensure the army's loyalty in the face of the rising challenges.
After the Tunisian turmoil, Saleh also ordered income taxes slashed in half and instructed his government to control prices. He also deployed anti-riot police and soldiers to several key areas in the capital, Sanaa, and its surroundings to prevent riots.
Still, critics of his rule have taken to the streets in three days of protests calling for him to step down. Such calls had been a red line that few dissenters dared to cross, though Saleh has been under pressure not to extend his rule either by running again or by placing his son in power.
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