Yemeni president fires government

File photo of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, 18 March 2011 Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in power in Yemen for more than three decades

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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has fired his cabinet amid continuing protests against his rule.

The announcement came after tens of thousands of people turned out at funerals for dozens of protesters shot dead on Friday.

Earlier, Yemen's ambassador to the UN became the latest official to resign in protest at the killings.

At least 45 people were killed on Friday after gunmen in civilian clothes fired on an anti-government rally.

Despite firing his government, President Saleh has asked the cabinet to remain in place until a new one could be appointed, Yemen's official news agency reported.

President Saleh has faced a string of resignations over Friday's crackdown, which have caused widespread anger in Yemen.

'Ready for more sacrifices'

The resignation by Yemen's ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Alsaidi, followed those of the ministers for human rights and tourism, several senior ruling party officials, the head of the state news agency, and the Yemeni ambassador to Lebanon.

Middle East unrest: Yemen

Map of Yemen
  • President Ali Abdullah Saleh in power since 1978
  • Population 24.3m; land area 536,869 sq km
  • The population has a median age of 17.9, and a literacy rate of 61%
  • Youth unemployment is 15%
  • Gross national income per head is $1,060 (£655) (World Bank 2009)

Mourners in the capital, Sanaa, gathered on Sunday in a square near Sanaa University.

The university was at the centre of Friday's crackdown, and bodies of many of the victims were laid out as people paid their respects.

Opposition parties joining the procession said they had changed their position from a demand for political reform to a demand of President Saleh's departure, the Associated Press news agency reported.

"This is an acknowledgment of the failure of the security in repressing the revolution, and the crowds that came out today are a signal of the readiness to put forth more sacrifices," said opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabry.

Demonstrations were also reported in several other regions.

President Saleh declared a state of emergency following Friday's shootings, which he denied had been carried out by his security forces.

But opposition accused the president of presiding over a "massacre".

President Saleh has been in power for 32 years. He has recently been challenged by a separatist movement in the south, a branch of al-Qaeda, and a periodic conflict with Shia tribes in the north.

He has promised political reforms and said he will not seek another term in office in 2013, but has also vowed to defend his regime "with every drop of blood".

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