Protesters in Yemen seeking to oust their president have tried a new way to get their message across: they have painted it on tens of thousands of colorful balloons.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis that gathered to protest on Friday released red, white and black balloons painted with the message “Leave, Ali," with the hope that they would drift over the presidential palace, The Associated Press reports.
Near the palace, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was addressing a mass rally of his supporters following the week's main Muslim prayers. Saleh denounced his opponents as "outlaws, bandits and murderers."
"Yes to constitutional reform and no to chaos, sabotage and revenge," he told his followers, reports The Daily Telegraph. "No to the project of revenge. No to the project of hatred, resentment and grudges.”
Saleh, who has ruled for 32 years, has vowed to remain in power despite three months of street demonstrations and pressure from neighboring Arab countries worried about Yemen’s growing instability. While in the early days of the protests he had promised to stand down if a legitimate transition plan was drawn up, Saleh has since turned his back on a regional plan for him to hand over power to the deputy president.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called Saleh's defiant position "unfortunate and frustrating.”
"It is unfortunate and frustrating that all these agreements which were presented by the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and others in the international community have not been fully accepted and agreed and implemented," Ban said at a conference in Sofia, reports AFP.
More than 140 protesters have been killed by government forces trying to quell the uprising in Yemen.
Friday’s anti-Saleh rally was dubbed a "Day of Gratitude to the South" to honor a 2007 uprising by southerners against Saleh. In a competing show of force, Saleh regime supporters gathered to mark "Friday for security and stability," AFP reports