News Wrap: Massive Anti-Government Demonstrations Arise Across Yemen
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Yemen today in the latest mass rallies against the country’s leader. At least one person was shot and killed by police. Large crowds turned out in the capital, Sanaa, demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh leave office.
The president’s supporters also rallied, and he firmly refused an offer of mediation from Qatar and other Persian Gulf nations.
ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, president of Yemen (through translator): Our strength stems from the strength of our great people, men and women. We don’t get our legitimacy from any other party, not from Qatar, nor from anyone else. This is rejected, rejected, rejected. This is blatant interference in Yemeni affairs. What the Qatari initiative offered and what Al-Jazeera is coming up with is rejected.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In Washington, a State Department spokesman urged Saleh to accept the mediation offer. His government has been a U.S. ally in the war against al-Qaida.
In Ivory Coast, the man elected president last fall announced plans to try and starve his rival out of his compound. Alassane Ouattara said his forces would blockade the presidential residence Abidjan, where Laurent Gbagbo has been for days. Gbagbo has refused to leave office since he lost his re-election bid. Meanwhile, U.N. and French forces patrol the streets of Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast. They have also been attacking Gbagbo’s weapons arsenals.
NATO acknowledged today that one of its warplanes accidentally fired on rebel forces in eastern Libya. The strike killed at least five rebel fighters on Thursday.
We have a report from Geraint Vincent of Independent Television News.
GERAINT VINCENT: Rebel forces on the move in the desert outside Ajdabiya, where a missile is heading straight for them. Rebels say this footage shows part of the NATO airstrike which killed its fighters and destroyed its tanks, an airstrike for which, this morning, NATO’s military command took responsibility but refused to apologize.
REAR ADM. RUSSELL HARDING, NATO: I’m not apologizing. The situation on the ground, as I said, was extremely fluid and remains extremely fluid.
GERAINT VINCENT: But then, as the funerals of the men who were killed in the airstrike took place in Benghazi, NATO’s political leadership hurried to sound a more apologetic note.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO Secretary-General: What I can say is that it is a very unfortunate incident, and I strongly regret the loss of life.
GERAINT VINCENT: Apologies aside, these rebel fighters told me that they were more concerned about why there have now been two friendly-fire incidents since NATO took over control of the no-fly zone one week ago.
In that time, NATO says it has flown 1,500 sorties over Libya. This attack by a British tornado on a pro-Gadhafi tank outside Misrata was one of them.
The landscape around Ajdabiya is littered with tanks that have been taken out by NATO airstrikes. This one even has its own signage. And the organization is clearly trying to convince people that it’s doing everything it can by publishing the number of strike missions its aircraft are flying.
On the way to the front lines, the rebels are using pink paint to help the pilots distinguish their vehicles from their enemies’. War is always messy, but here the NATO effort is coming close to being defined by its deadly slipups.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, heavy fighting broke out again around the western Libyan city of Misrata. Troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi battled rebels holding the city. Hospital workers reported at least five people were killed.
Millions of people in northern Japan remained in the dark today after a major aftershock knocked out power. The overnight tremor was the strongest since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. At least three people were killed. Today, many businesses stayed closed, and those that were open had long lines and empty shelves. Lines at gas stations were also long.
The hotly contested race for state Supreme Court in Wisconsin has taken a new turn over a vote miscount. A mostly Republican county announced Thursday night that 14,000 votes had mistakenly gone unreported. That gave conservative Justice David Prosser a 7,500-vote lead over a liberal challenger, as counting continued. The winner will likely rule on challenges to a new law stripping public employees of most bargaining rights.
On Wall Street today, stocks sold off, amid concerns over a government shutdown. The price of oil also weighed on the market. It closed just short of $113 a barrel in New York trading. In response, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 29 points to close at 12,380. The Nasdaq fell more than 15 points to close at 2,780. For the week, the Dow gained a fraction of 1 percent; the Nasdaq lost a fraction.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.