UPDATE 1-Eight Yemenis killed, Saleh sees Russian, Chinese support

Sun Oct 16, 2011 1:34pm EDT

Related Topics

* Yemenis await U.N. pressure on Saleh to step down

* Saleh says banks on China, Russia at Security Council

* Violence rises with attack on gas pipeline (Adds more deaths, Saleh's comments)

SANAA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Eight Yemenis, including five protesters, were killed in a new upsurge in violence in the capital on Sunday, hospital officials and witnesses said, and President Ali Abudllah Saleh said he expected China and Russia to block U.N. moves to end his rule.

The two countries joined forces to veto a European-sponsored resolution against Syria earlier this month but were not expected to block the resolution on Saleh which is due to go to the Security Council this week, diplomats in New York have said.

Yemeni security forces fired on protesters, killing at least five people in the capital Sanaa on Sunday, hospital officials said, in violence which took the death toll in two days to at least 20.

Two brothers and a nephew died in a separate incident in Sanaa when a shell fell on their house in al-Qaa neighbourhood, witnesses said. They said the shell exploded during clashes between security forces and anti-government fighters.

Witnesses said security forces attacked the protesters when they tried to enter Zubayri Street, which lies between areas controlled by government forces and dissident general Ali Mohsen.

Residents said the authorities feared protesters could block off the street, a major throughway for traffic.

"Until now, we have four martyrs and 13 injured by bullets," said Dr. Muhammad al-Qubati, head of a field hospital set up by protesters on Sixty Street in the capital Sanaa, where thousands have camped out for months demanding Saleh end his 33 years in office.

Security forces also killed a 52-year-old woman during protests in the southern city of Taiz, medical officials said.

SURGE IN VIOLENCE

Violence in Yemen, strategically located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, has surged over the last two days, with security forces killing at least 12 on Saturday while al Qaeda insurgents blew up a gas pipeline, halting the impoverished nation's gas exports.

U.N. Security Council members are considering a resolution expected to urge Saleh to hand over power under a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) peace plan.

Saleh says he is ready to step down but wants to ensure that control of the country is put in safe hands.

"Some friendly states, permanent members of the (Security Council) such as China and Russia, will not take a hardline position like some other permanent members," Saleh said in comments broadcast on Yemeni state television.

Speaking at a meeting of his security and military chiefs in Sanaa, he said Western permanent members of the Security Council based their decisions on information gathered solely from the opposition.

"They consider the opposition as being aggrieved and that it should be supported," he said.

Britain has been drafting the resolution in consultation with France and the United States and intends to circulate it to the full 15-nation Security Council shortly after a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.

Yemeni officials have said the attack on the pipeline on Saturday was in retaliation for the killing of the head of the media department of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in an air raid on militant outposts in Yemen last week.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen, fear al Qaeda is trying to take advantage of the country's political vacuum to expand its territory in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, near a strategic shipping strait used by tankers carrying some 3 million barrels of oil a day. (Reporting By Mohammed Sudam; writing by Nour Merza; editing by Sami Aboudi and Philippa Fletcher)

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