Ivory Coast: Forces loyal to UN backed Outtara surround Capital City

Forces loyal to the UN-backed president of Ivory Coat, Alassane Ouattara, are pressing on the main city of Abidjan from several directions
. Their offensive threatens to make a battleground of the city, the last stronghold of presidential rival Laurent Gbagbo. Mr Gbagbo’s army chief earlier sought refuge with South Africa’s ambassador.

The UN says Mr Gbagbo lost last year’s election to Mr Ouattara, but he has so far refused to cede power.  Armed supporters of Mr Gbagbo have been patrolling districts of the city, setting up roadblocks. The BBC’s Valerie Bony in Abidjan says there have been fierce clashes around the national television centre in a residential part of the city, and heavy weapons fire in northern suburbs. She says an informed source had told her that the head of the military police, Edouard Kassarate, had defected to the Ouattara side and had gone to the Hotel de Golf, Mr Ouattara’s headquarters in Abidjan, which had been besieged by Mr Gbagbo’s forces.

Phillippe Mangou’s decision to seek refuge is bad news for Laurent Gbagbo – and certainly for the forces supposed to be defending the incumbent president in Abidjan. He was a known Gbagbo loyalist, but not as hard-line as some of the other generals. It does now feel like the end of things for Mr Gbagbo. A credible source says the head of the gendarmerie, Edouard Kassarate, has gone over to the Ouattara side, with the military police en masse pledging allegiance to Mr Ouattara.

There are also rumours of people leaving, certainly most of Mr Gbagbo’s supporters have sent their children overseas – and there is talk of unrest at the airport as some people try to flee. The UN envoy in Abidjan, Choi Young-jin, told French radio the blockade of the hotel was no longer in place as pro-Gbagbo units had left.  Mr Gbagbo’s army chief, Phillippe Mangou, earlier sought refuge at the home of South Africa’s ambassador in Abidjan.

“The game is over for Gbagbo. It is finished,” he told Reuters in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast’s capital.

The international community, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon and France – Ivory Coast’s former colonial power – has urged Mr Gbagbo to immediately cede power to Mr Ouattara. The US urged both sides to exercise restraint and protect civilians. US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said both Mr Gbagbo and his wife would be held accountable if significant violence broke out.

Mr Ouattara was internationally recognised as president last year, after the electoral commission declared him winner of the run-off vote. The UN, which helped organise the vote, certified it as legitimate. However, Mr Gbagbo claimed victory after the Constitutional Council overturned Mr Ouattara’s win.

The forces supporting Mr Ouattara have made lightning advances since Monday, moving out from their base in the northern half of the country. On Wednesday, his fighters captured Ivory Coast’s capital, Yamoussoukro, and the key port of San Pedro. Mr Gbagbo’s hometown of Gagnoa has also fallen.

In a televised address earlier on Thursday, Mr Ouattara appealed for his rival’s soldiers to join him in order to prevent further suffering. Since the crisis began in December, one million people have fled the violence – mostly from Abidjan – and at least 473 people have been killed, according to the UN. An armed rebellion in 2002 split the nation in two – a division last November’s elections were meant to heal.


Foreign Policy: The Hard Part of Libya’s Revolution

You may recall the last time the United States and its allies used military force to overthrow a hated Arab dictator. The resulting vacuum was quickly filled by anarchic looting, murderous rivalries and, ultimately, civil war. The blitheness of President George W. Bush’s administration towards post-war Iraq was quite possibly the most inexcusable blunder in the history of American foreign policy. It’s a mistake we wouldn’t want to make again.

That’s why Lisa Anderson, one of the very few American scholarly experts on modern Libya and president of American University in Cairo, recently wrote that “Any military and diplomatic intervention that will bring an end to the Qaddafi regime should be accompanied, from the beginning, by mobilization of the resources for political reconstruction.”

That does sound like a good idea. But it’s not happening. A senior official in President Barack Obama’s administration says that the situation in Libya is “much too fluid,” and the identity of the rebel leadership much too uncertain, to permit serious planning about a post-Muammar al-Qaddafi world, should the rebels actually seize power. The White House is, to be fair, a bit preoccupied, what with organizing the no-fly zone, trying to stave off chaos in Yemen and Bahrain, and attempting to assist a soft landing in Egypt and Tunisia. Most of those countries, as this official says, are of greater strategic significance to the United States than Libya is. And there is, of course, the all too real possibility that the military intervention will produce a stalemate rather than a decisive rebel victory, in which case any such planning would be moot.

The good news is that Libya is not Iraq. The country’s tribal divisions should not prove as insuperable an obstacle to national unity as Iraq’s Shia-Sunni-Kurd divide. And should the rebels somehow overthrow Qaddafi, they will have the legitimacy which comes of winning an insurgency, as the Iraqis placed on the throne by U.S. power did not.

But one of the fundamental lessons of Iraq is that things will be worse than you think. Not only does war unleash all manner of latent enmity and violence, but decades of abusive treatment by a ruthless dictators fuels pathologies that only fully manifest themselves when the lid of control pops off. Pro- and anti-Qaddafi tribes could square off against one another; Qaddafi could unleash the jihadists he once trained to wreak violence both at home and abroad. So you wouldn’t want to bet on a happy outcome in Libya — you’d want to do whatever you could to help deliver one. And it behooves those of us who have argued for the intervention now under way to give serious thought to what form that help should take.

The United States will not be the occupying power in Libya as it was in Iraq, and thus will have far less leverage, and far less responsibility. The Libyans will be calling the shots. But thanks to Qaddafi’s malevolently whimsical vision of a nation without a state or state institutions, whoever inherits the country will need an enormous amount of outside help.

Larry Diamond, a Stanford scholar who served with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and was a leading advocate for intervention in Libya, says that the most directly relevant lesson of Iraq — and of Afghanistan, for that matter — is “security trumps everything.” People won’t accept a new political order if they may pay with their lives for doing so. It’s impossible to know right now where those threats may come from. But since Libya will have no foreign troops to stop looting or score-settling, the United States or others will have to train Libyan forces in what Diamond calls “democratic policing.”

Encouraging local capacity is thus more important than devising and importing elaborate solutions. The key lesson, Bodine concludes, is, “Wherever possible, work through existing institutions.” Unfortunately, Libya has very few institutions at all. Outsiders might have to let the new rulers work out their own political problems in their own way, but nevertheless provide enormous amounts of technocratic help.

But who should those outsiders be? The United States has learned painful lessons about the limits of its credibility in the Arab and Muslim world, which is one reason why Obama has kept the American footprint as small as possible. Why, then, contemplate an American-led effort to rebuild Libya, especially one that U.S. taxpayers are not about to fund? When Libya was freed from colonial rule in 1951, it fell under the tutelage of the United Nations, which helped organize a provincial assembly and draft a constitution. Perhaps the U.N. needs to return to Libya and play something of the administrative role it did in post-conflict states such as Kosovo and East Timor. James Dobbins, a former senior American diplomat now at the RAND Corp., has argued that U.N.-led state-building efforts have generally proved far more cost-effective than American ones.

Libyans, who preserve a national memory of the hated colonial experience under Italy, however, may view even the U.N. as a neo-colonial force. Lisa Anderson suggests drawing on the resources of the global South, on states such as South Africa and Chile that have made the transition from dictatorship to democracy. One possible source of institutional — but non-state — support, she notes, would be the Club of Madrid, a group of former heads of state of democratic countries. That would be, she says, a “twenty-first century solution” to the problem of state-building.

I’m not quite convinced that a country that missed out on 20th century state-formation is ready for 21st century solutions. Still, all these issues are worth debating. What is not worth debating is whether, having decided to intervene in Libya, the international community has both an obligation to prepare for the post-conflict situation and the capacity to do something about it. The fiasco in Iraq does not demonstrate that outsiders are helpless to shape such chaotic settings, but rather that you need to pay close attention to their very complicated realities, and approach them with due humility. If they ever do reach Tripoli, the Libyans whose heroic resistance to Qaddafi we are now apostrophizing are going to turn around and say, “Help us.” And it will not be enough to give Donald Rumsfeld’s cynical shrug and say, “Democracy is messy.”

Alex Pickerman- Our Protest against the cuts was peaceful

Published in the Guardian.

On Saturday hundreds of thousands took to the streets of London to protest against the cuts. The turnout was much bigger than expected, and the message was clear: people in Britain are totally opposed to the government’s choice to prioritise the needs of bankers and big business over those of ordinary citizens.

Hundreds of people marched as UK Uncut and, instead of attending the main rally, went to Oxford Street, the heart of London’s shopping district, to occupy for the alternative. A diverse mass movement has been born.  The UK Uncut actions included people dressing as doctors to transform tax avoider Boots into a hospital, in protest against the £20bn cuts to the NHS. BHS on Oxford Street (part of Philip Green‘s empire) was closed as actors and musicians gathered outside to protest against arts cuts, with Sam and Timothy West staging an extract from The Voysey Inheritance by Granville Barker.

In nearby Soho Square an open air comedy venue was created, where Josie Long and Mark Thomas performed to an audience of nearly a thousand. These actions continued in the creative, fun and inclusive vein that UK Uncut has become known for, highlighting the tax gap and the injustice of bailing out the banks that caused the financial crisis and are awarding their bosses grotesque bonuses.

The UK Uncut actions were organised to work in tandem with the TUC March for the Alternative in order to make space for people wanting to engage in creative civil disobedience as their way of expressing opposition to the cuts. It was positive. It was in solidarity. We were not seeking to grab headlines – we did what we always do, engage in creative sit-down protest. We are all in this together.

At 3.30pm we gathered on Oxford Street and moved toward a new tax-dodging target, Fortnum & Mason, to stage an occupation. This foodstore is owned by Whittington Investments, which runs a devious tax avoidance scheme, stuffing money in Luxembourg and avoiding £10m a year in tax. This money could pay for about 500 nurses.

Over the last six months UK Uncut has creatively occupied shops owned by various tax dodgers. Last Saturday was no different. Inside Fortnum & Mason about 150 people read books, sang songs, held up banners and listened to music – creative civil disobedience against the cuts. We had many of the store’s staff engaging with us and wanting to know more; people in the cafe carried on eating their crumpets quite happily.

Balloons and beachballs were the only things being thrown in the air. A basket of chocolates was accidentally knocked over so we picked them up. We weren’t even asked to leave.  There has been tremendous confusion in the media about what UK Uncut had organised. Some on Twitter have been asking whether we should have organised an action at the same time as the march. Some who attended the march feel we hijacked their event. To this we say: “We are with you, and our occupations were in no way an attempt to grab headlines.”

There has been anger directed at us because some media outlets incorrectly used our name for actions we did not organise, giving every action the name UK Uncut. But it is clear, if you spend two minutes on our website, who we are, what we are about, and what our plans were. More accurate, grassroots reporting is emerging that tells the true story. UK Uncut will continue to take part in creative civil disobedience against the cuts, to ensure government and big business do not get away with making ordinary people pay for a crisis they did not cause.

Paul Krugman- The Republican Thought Police

Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state’s political turmoil. He started a blog, “Scholar as Citizen,” devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin’s Republican governor has turned his back on the state’s long tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect.”

So what was the G.O.P.’s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon’s university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word “Republican” and the names of a number of Republican politicians. If this action strikes you as no big deal, you’re missing the point. The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.

The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become.  The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records. Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned — I know this will shock you — that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike.

But that didn’t stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered “Climategate,” a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon.

After all, if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you’re bound to find a few. In fact, it’s surprising how few such lines the critics managed to find in the “Climategate” trove: much of the smear has focused on just one e-mail, in which a researcher talks about using a “trick” to “hide the decline” in a particular series. In context, it’s clear that he’s talking about making an effective graphical presentation, not about suppressing evidence. But the right wants a scandal, and won’t take no for an answer.

Is there any doubt that Wisconsin Republicans are hoping for a similar “success” against Mr. Cronon? Now, in this case they’ll probably come up dry. Mr. Cronon writes on his blog that he has been careful never to use his university e-mail for personal business, exhibiting a scrupulousness that’s neither common nor expected in the academic world. (Full disclosure: I have, at times, used my university e-mail to remind my wife to feed the cats, confirm dinner plans with friends, etc.)

Beyond that, Mr. Cronon — the president-elect of the American Historical Association — has a secure reputation as a towering figure in his field. His magnificent “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West” is the best work of economic and business history I’ve ever read — and I read a lot of that kind of thing.  So we don’t need to worry about Mr. Cronon — but we should worry a lot about the wider effect of attacks like the one he’s facing.

Legally, Republicans may be within their rights: Wisconsin’s open records law provides public access to e-mails of government employees, although the law was clearly intended to apply to state officials, not university professors. But there’s a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn’t like.

Someone like Mr. Cronon can stand up to the pressure. But less eminent and established researchers won’t just become reluctant to act as concerned citizens, weighing in on current debates; they’ll be deterred from even doing research on topics that might get them in trouble.

What’s at stake here, in other words, is whether we’re going to have an open national discourse in which scholars feel free to go wherever the evidence takes them, and to contribute to public understanding. Republicans, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, are trying to shut that kind of discourse down. It’s up to the rest of us to see that they don’t succeed.

Anger in Syria over crackdown- 20,000 strong protest

Around 20,000 Syrians chanting freedom slogans marched on Thursday at the funerals of nine protesters killed by security forces in the southern city of Daraa, witnesses said. “The blood of martyrs is not spilt in waste!” they chanted in Daraa’s southern cemetery.

The nine were among at least 25 people shot dead by security forces on Wednesday, residents said. A witness told Al Jazeera that more than 100 people were killed. He said many people have gone missing and bodies have been dragged away from the streets. The town was in chaos, he said.  

A hospital in Daraa had said earlier that it had received the bodies of at least 25 protesters who died in confrontations with security forces. “We received them at 5pm local time on Wednesday (1500 GMT). They all had bullet holes,” the official told Reuters news agency on Thursday.

The AP news agency quoted an activist as saying that some residents of the southern town are holding a sit-in to protest the killings. The activist, who is in contact with residents in Daraa, said the situation is still tense, with a heavy presence of security forces in the streets. He said dozens of people were holding the sit-in in the al-Mahata neighborhood near the city centre.

Inspired by the wave of pro-democracy protests around the region, Daraa residents have held protests since last week. Earlier, human rights activists said at least 15 people have been killed in Daraa.

Residents said security forces shot and killed six people including a doctor who was giving aid to the injured at the Omari mosque, where most of the protests took place. A rights activist also told AFP news agency that security forces had opened fire on mourners attending the funeral of those killed in Daraa.

Call for Friday protests

Meanwhile, pro-democracy demonstrators in Syria have called for mass protests across the country on Friday. Activists used social-networking sites to call for the protests, which they dubbed as “Dignity Friday.”  Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Damascus, said violence broke out in Daraa when residents from other towns clashed with security forces as they tried to enter it to help residents there.

A youth activist in the Syrian capital, who remains anonymous, told Al Jazeera that his contacts in Daraa said that “dozens of people” had died in clashes. “Many there want to take down the government, and want more freedoms.” he said. Our correspondent said there was a heavy security presence in Daraa, with the army, anti-terror police and riot police all deployed in the city. Journalists are not being allowed to visit the city, and several of those who attempted to do so last night had their equipment confiscated by authorities.

‘Need for radical change’

Checkpoints have been set up by security forces at all entry points to the city. There was also no mobile phone network coverage in Daraa on Wednesday. Syria’s state-run television station reported that an “armed gang” attacked an ambulance at the Omari mosque, killing four people. The victims were a doctor, a paramedic, a policeman and the ambulance driver, according to SANA.

Later on Wednesday, state television showed what it said were pictures of a weapons stockpile inside the Omari mosque, including pistols, shotguns, grenades and ammunition. A Syrian official told the AFP news agency that the governor of Daraa had been sacked following the killings.  Authorities have arrested a leading campaigner who had supported the protesters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday. It said Loay Hussein, a political prisoner, was taken from his home near Damascus.

A number of Syrian towns and cities saw demonstrations in recent days despite the country’s emergency law which bans protests that has been in place since 1963.

Violence condemned

The United Nations, France and the United States condemned the violence. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, called for “a transparent investigation into the killings”. A spokesman for the US state department said Washington was alarmed by the situation and urged Syrian authorities to “exercise restraint and to refrain from violence”. “We are deeply concerned by the Syrian government’s use of violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrests to hinder the ability of its people to freely exercise their universal rights. We condemn these actions,” said Mark Toner.

On Tuesday, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Syrian authorities to halt the excessive use of force. “The government should carry out an independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings of the six protesters during the events of 18 and 20 March,” Rupert Colville, a spokesman for Pillay, said on Tuesday.

BBC: Wikileaks reveals that India’s Congress Party ‘bought votes’

India’s ruling Congress party bribed MPs to survive a crucial vote of confidence in 2008, a diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks suggests. It describes how a senior Congress aide showed a US embassy official “chests of cash” to pay off MPs ahead of a vote over a controversial nuclear deal.

The ruling party has denied the allegations. The leak heaps further pressure on embattled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a string of corruption scandals. The leaked cable, reported in The Hindu newspaper, has caused uproar in the Indian parliament with the main opposition parties saying that Congress had “brought shame to the nation” and calling on the prime minister to resign.

‘Chests of cash’

The cable by US official Steven White said that the embassy employee had met Nachiketa Kapur, an aide of senior Congress leader Satish Sharma. It says that Mr Kapur told the embassy employee that “money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government”.

The embassy employee said he was shown “two chests containing cash and said that around $25m (£15.5m) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs”.  Nachiketa Kapur denied the report, saying: “I vehemently deny these malicious allegations. There was no cash to point out to.”

Satish Sharma told a news channel that he did not even have an aide called Nachiketa Kapur. “I never had and still don’t have a political aide,” he said. Mr Sharma is described as a “close associate of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi [and] considered to be a very close family friend of [Congress party chief] Sonia Gandhi”.

The cable said that Mr Kapur also claimed that MPs belonging to regional party Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had been paid 100 million rupees ($2.5m; £1.5m) each to ensure they voted for the “right way”.  RLD leader Ajit Singh has denied the charge and said that he was “opposed to the nuclear deal” and his party MPs “voted against the government”.

These exchanges are alleged to have happened at the time of a controversial deal between India and the US which paved the way for India to massively expand its nuclear power capability. The government’s left-wing allies withdrew their support over the deal but the Congress party narrowly survived the vote despite substantial opposition. If the government had lost the vote, India could have faced early elections. A defeat would have also put the nuclear deal in doubt.

Accusations of vote-buying were also made at the time: opposition MPs waved wads of money in parliament alleging they were offered bribes to abstain. Widespread corruption in India costs billions of dollars and threatens to derail the country’s growth, a recent report by consultancy firm KPMG says.

The report says corruption is no longer just about petty bribes but about the major scandals where billions of dollars are allegedly siphoned off by government and industry. India’s Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja is under arrest on suspicion of underselling billions of dollars worth of mobile phone licenceshe denies the allegations.

The government was also forced by the courts to quash the appointment of its anti-corruption commissioner, on the grounds that he himself faces corruption charges. Congress was recently forced by the opposition to set up a cross-party investigation into corruption

Yemeni President Offers to Exit At End of Year (after his Generals defected to the Protestors)

Published in NY TIMES.

SANA, Yemen — As his tenuous grasp on power eroded further with more public figures defecting to the opposition, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has accepted a proposal by his adversaries to plan his departure from office by the end of the year, a government official said on Tuesday. Previously he had offered only to leave by 2013.

It was not clear whether his offer would appease protesters who have been incensed by a bloody assault on a demonstration last Friday that killed at least 45 people. The Yemeni leader shifted ground after a wave of high-level officials, including the country’s senior military commander, an important tribal leader and a half-dozen ambassadors abandoned him and threw their support behind protesters calling for his ouster.

The latest of the departures came on Tuesday when Abdel-Malik Mansour, Yemen’s representative to the Arab League, told Al Arabiya television he had thrown his support behind the protesters. Abdul-Rahman al-Iryani, the minister of water and environment, who was dismissed with the rest of the cabinet on Sunday, also said he was joining “the revolutionaries.”

A government official, who spoke in return for anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said on Tuesday that the details of Mr. Saleh’s proposal were not yet clear and were “still in the works.” The opposition proposal urged Mr. Saleh to complete arrangements for his departure by the end of the year. But since then, the opposition has backed away from the offer, initially made at the beginning of March, saying they want Mr. Saleh to quit immediately.

As the country girded for the next stage of a deepening crisis, military units appeared to take sides in the capital on Monday, with the Republican Guard protecting the palace of President Saleh and soldiers from the First Armored Division under the defecting military commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, protecting the throngs of protesters in Sana. Despite a celebratory mood among the demonstrators, the standoff prompted the United States Embassy to urge Americans in Yemen to stay indoors on Monday night because of “political instability and uncertainty.”

In his letter of resignation on Tuesday, the former water minister declared: “It is becoming ridiculous that every member of the regime is now joining the revolution, when in fact they should surrender themselves to the revolution for trial for crimes that they committed against the people or looked the other way while these crimes were perpetrated on the people. Also, they should pledge not to occupy any public office in the future.”

Therefore, he wrote, “Having served as Minister of Water and Environment since 2006, hereby declare that I surrender to the Youth of the Revolution for fair accounting of any wrongs I may have committed against the people of Yemen and pledge not to hold any public office in the future.”

The defection of General Ahmar, who commands forces in the country’s northwest, was seen by many in Yemen as a turning point, and a possible sign that government leaders could be negotiating an exit for the president. But the defense minister, Brig. Gen. Muhammad Nasir Ahmad Ali, later said on television that the armed forces remained loyal to Mr. Saleh.

That suggested the possibility of a dangerous split in the military should Mr. Saleh, who dismissed his cabinet late Sunday night in the face of escalating opposition, decide to fight to preserve his 32-year rule. His son Ahmed commands the Republican Guard, and four nephews hold important security posts, and their ability to retain the loyalty of their troops in the face of ballooning opposition has yet to be tested.

The Obama administration has watched Mr. Saleh’s eroding position with alarm, for fear of both escalating violence and a power vacuum that might allow the branch of Al Qaeda in Yemen greater freedom to operate. Mr. Saleh has been a crucial ally in operations against the affiliate, called Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which since 2009 has mounted multiple terrorist plots against the United States.

General Ahmar and more than a dozen other senior commanders who followed his example said they had decided to support the protesters after a bloody assault on a demonstration on Friday in which more than 45 people were killed. “I declare on their behalf our peaceful support for the youth revolution and that we are going to fulfill our complete duty in keeping the security and stability in the capital,” General Ahmar told Al Jazeera on Monday. He said that violence against protesters was “pushing the country to the edge of civil war.”

General Ahmar is sometimes described as a rival of the president, and he has long opposed the possible succession to the presidency of Mr. Saleh’s son Ahmed. But the general is from the same village as the president and has mostly been a pillar of support for Mr. Saleh.  By Monday afternoon, soldiers directed by General Ahmar stood among the demonstrators with black, white and red ribbons, the colors of Yemen’s flag, draped over their chests. “We are with the people,” said a group of soldiers guarding the main entrance of the protest.

At the same time, one of the country’s most important tribal leaders, Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, said Monday that he would join the country’s protest movement. He is the head of the Hashid tribal confederation, to which the president belongs, and his support for antigovernment demonstrations is another serious blow to Mr. Saleh. “Yemen is not the property of Ali Saleh or the Hashids,” Sheik Ahmar told protesters in Sana as he endorsed their movement.

By swinging the weight of the Hashid tribes behind the protests, Sheik Ahmar joined his brother, Sheik Hussein al-Ahmar, who resigned from the ruling party last month to join the demonstrators. Tribes from across Yemen have historically been embroiled in conflicts, but so far few squabbles have taken place among those who have joined the main protest in Sana, their leaders and other protesters said.

The shift in support by the tribal leader and military commanders came amid a stream of resignations by Yemeni officials on Monday, including the mayor of the restive southern city of Aden, a provincial governor and more than half of the country’s foreign ambassadors. The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said in Brussels on Monday that Mr. Saleh’s resignation was now “unavoidable.”  “This is a replicate of the changes that have happened in Egypt,” said a high-ranking Yemeni diplomat in Europe who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But, he added, it was still too soon to tell where events would lead.

The atmosphere was jubilant at the demonstration, which had grown to its largest size in weeks of rallies, with some men breaking into song. “The army knows that its correct place is to protect the people,” said Fawaz al-Muthlafy, an engineer from the central city of Taiz who has spent weeks at the sit-in protest. “The citizens are now receiving support from across the entire nation, and all our voices have been united.”

On a stage in front of the main gates of Sana University, an announcer welcomed a series of sheiks who voiced support for the demonstrations.  The country’s formal political opposition, which for the first time on Saturday joined street protests as a group, also welcomed the support of the commanders. “President Ali Abdullah Saleh will now see that change is a must,” said Mohammed Qahtan, the spokesman for the Joint Meetings Parties, Yemen’s coalition of opposition groups.

Benjamin Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Monday that violence against demonstrators was “unacceptable.”  “I think our view is that there’s clearly going to have to be a political solution in Yemen that includes a government that is more responsive to the Yemeni people,” Mr. Rhodes said. “That has been our consistent message to President Saleh.”

Gregory D. Johnsen, a Princeton University expert on Yemen, said the defection of General Ahmar, known popularly as Ali Mohsin, could well prove a lethal blow to Mr. Saleh’s rule. “Many people were waiting for him to make his move,” Mr. Johnsen said. “It’s opened the floodgates.”

General Ahmar, who is widely believed to hold the conservative religious views of the Salafi school, was responsible for helping Yemeni men who had fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan reintegrate into Yemeni society after their return in the 1990s and has since been an important government liaison to militant factions. American officials said that history is no indication of sympathy or tolerance for Al Qaeda. But they are uncertain about what an increase in General Ahmar’s influence might mean for Yemen and counterterrorism.

Abdullah Alsaidi, Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations, became one of a growing list of senior diplomats to resign after Friday’s violence. “I appeal to the president and to all others to work for a peaceful transfer of power,” Mr. Alsaidi said in an interview with Al Jazeera on Monday. “Yemen is a poor country,” he added, saying it could ill afford further bloodshed.