What could possibly be the most important unreported news from the weekend comes out of China, where quietly Internet postings have circulated, calling for disgruntled Chinese to gather on Sunday in public places in 13 major cities to mark the “Jasmine Revolution” spreading through the Middle East. The postings, many of which appeared to have originated on overseas websites run by exiled Chinese political activists, called for protests in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and 10 other major Chinese cities. And while there has been some speculation this latest “social network” protest is nothing more than performance art, the Chinese authorities sure are taking it seriously: “The calls have apparently led the Chinese government to censor postings containing the word “jasmine” in an attempt to quell any potential unrest. “We welcome… laid off workers and victims of forced evictions to participate in demonstrations, shout slogans and seek freedom, democracy and political reform to end ‘one party rule’,” one posting said.” Just like surging prices (which however are either forcefully adjusted to not be reflected or eliminated entirely from the data stream) caused virtually all prior Chinese social revolts, will they succeed again? And more importantly, will China demonstrate to the US that the only way to prevent a ‘twitter revolution’ is to wrest control of the internet entirely? If so, how many days before Big Brother is actively scouring through every single 100Base TX for daily keywords of choice with HBGary patiently waiting in the corridors to unleash a destructive DDOS at a moment’s notice?
From the AFP:
Protesters were urged to shout slogans including “we want food to eat,” “we want work,” we want housing,” “we want justice,” “long live freedom,” and “long live democracy.”
Chinese authorities have sought to restrict media reports on the recent political turmoil that began in Tunisia as the “Jasmine Revolution” and spread to Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
Unemployment and rising prices have been key factors linked to the unrest that has also spread to Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya.
Searches Sunday for “jasmine” on China’s Twitter-like micro-blog Weibo ended without results, while messages on the popular Baidu search engine said that due to laws and regulations such results were unavailable.
Some Chinese Internet search pages listed “jasmine” postings but links to them were blocked.
The Chinese government has expended tremendous resources to police the Internet and block anti-government postings and other politically sensitive material with a system known as the “Great Firewall of China.”
In a speech given Saturday, Chinese President Hu Jintao acknowledged growing social unrest and urged the ruling Communist Party to better safeguard stability while also ordering strengthened controls over “virtual society” or the Internet.
The stunning call for insurrection has caught so many off guard, some believe this is just some high powered attempt at artistic expression:
Activists seemed not to know what to make of the call to protest, even as they passed it on. They said they were unaware of any known group being involved in the request for citizens to gather in 13 cities and shout, “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness.”
Some even wondered whether the call was “performance art” instead of a serious move in the footsteps of recent protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya.
And just as China’s ministry of truth is learning from the BLS, so the US department of full disclosure is rapidly doing all it can to take down whole section of the internet when and if it deems that acts of sedition have spread pervasively within US territories. Indeed, China is well ahead of the US here, and the seriousness and rapidity of the response indicates this is most certainly not a drill:
The call to protest was first posted on the U.S.-based Chinese-language website Boxun.com. “Boxun has no way to verify the background of this and did not participate,” it said.
The Boxun site was unavailable Saturday, and reported being attacked.
“This is the most serious denial of service attack we have received,” it said in a statement. “We believe the attack is related to the Jasmine Revolution proposed on Feb. 20 in China.”
In the meantime, despite numerous RRR and interest rate hikes, Chinese prices continue to surge:
The ruling Communist Party is dogged by the threat of social unrest over rising food and housing prices and other issues.
In the latest price increase, the National Development and Reform Commission announced Saturday that gasoline and diesel prices would be raised by 350 yuan ($53) per ton.
Meanwhile, Shanghai became the latest city to place new limits on housing purchases to tamp down soaring home prices. Residents who already own two or more homes in Shanghai would be prohibited from buying more, while outsiders would be limited to one, Xinhua reported.
As reported previously, a roasted Chicken in Shanghai goes for $30.
Keep an eye out on Sino news tomorrow. If Chinese protests commence in earnest, then not even Bernie Bernanke will be able to find many new LPs willing to invest in the ponzi at this late hour…
DEN HAAG (ANP) - Olieconcern Shell haalt zo snel mogelijk alle expats terug uit Libië. Dat zei een woordvoerder van de multinational maandag. Shell heeft enkele tientallen mensen in Libië gestationeerd. Hoeveel van hen Nederlands zijn, wist de woordvoerder niet te zeggen.
Shell is naar eigen zeggen op zeer beperkte schaal in Libië actief. Op één plaats in het Afrikaanse land boort het bedrijf naar gas. Het gaat hierbij om exploratiewerk: het zoeken naar gas.
Of de expats meevliegen met het militaire vliegtuig dat de Nederlandse regering dinsdag naar Libië stuurt, is niet bekend. De zegsman wilde niets kwijt over de manier waarop het personeel wordt gerepatrieerd. De familieleden van de medewerkers heeft Shell al in een eerder stadium geëvacueerd.
TRIPOLI - Het Libische bewind lijkt grof geschut in te zetten tegen oppositieaanhangers. Gevechtsvliegtuigen en luchtmachthelikopters schieten op betogers in de hoofdstad Tripoli, hebben ooggetuigen maandag laten weten aan de Arabische nieuwszender al-Jazeera. Er zouden veel doden zijn gevallen. De berichten zijn niet te controleren.
Protest tegen Kaddafi in de Egyptische hoofdstad Cairo Foto: AP
Volgens de in Parijs gevestigde Federatie voor de Mensenrechten zijn sinds het begin van de opstand in Libië meer dan driehonderd doden gevallen. Demonstranten eisen al enkele dagen het vertrek van leider Muammar Kaddafi. Het regime lijkt de protesten met harde hand te willen onderdrukken.
De Verenigde Staten halen alle niet-essentiële medewerkers van de ambassade uit het Noord-Afrikaanse land. Dat heeft het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken maandag laten weten. Ook familieleden van ambassadepersoneel worden teruggeroepen. Amerikaanse burgers wordt afgeraden naar Libië te reizen.
De maatregel is een reactie op de toenemende spanningen in Libië.
n Libië wordt al dagen gedemonstreerd tegen het bewind van Kaddafi.
Venezuela ontkent dat de Libische leider Moammar Gadhafi naar het Zuid-Amerikaanse land onderweg is. Het bericht 'is vals', laat minister van informatie Andres Izarra weten.
Hem was om commentaar gevraagd over een verklaring van de Britse minister van buitenlandse zaken William Hague, die in Brussel zei dat er aanwijzigingen waren dat Gadhafi naar Venezuela was vertrokken.
EU-buitenlandchef Catherine Ashton zei daar niets van af te weten en andere EU-medewerkers die het overleg van de Europese ministers hadden bijgewoond deden het af als 'ongegronde geruchten'.
De Venezolaanse president is Hugo Chávez is een bondgenoot van Gadhafi.
VALLETTA - Twee straaljagers van de Libische luchtmacht zijn maandag onverwacht geland op het vliegveld van de Maltese hoofdstad Valletta. Volgens de lokale krant Times of Malta hebben de piloten asiel aangevraagd, nadat ze hadden geweigerd demonstranten in de stad Benghazi te beschieten.
Eerder op de dag waren al twee burgerhelikopters met in totaal zeven mensen aan boord geland in Valletta. De helikopters zouden geen toestemming hebben gehad om het Libische luchtruim te verlaten en de identiteit van de inzittenden is nog niet bekend, aldus de Times of Malta.
Malta ligt ongeveer 400 kilometer ten noorden van Libië, waar al dagen wordt gedemonstreerd tegen leider Muammar Kaddafi. Nog geen honderd kilometer noordelijker ligt het Italiaanse eiland Sicilië. Vanwege de onrust in Libië geldt op Italiaanse luchtmachtbases voorlopig het hoogste alarmniveau, aldus het Italiaanse persbureau ANSA. Rome zou luchtmachthelikopters en de marine naar het zuiden hebben gestuurd.
Clashes between hooded youths and anti-riot police erupted in central Athens on Wednesday during a mass protest against severe government austerity measures.
One elderly civilian was slightly injured and taken to a hospital during the clashes, said eyewitnesses and local journalists, who joined a 24-hour nationwide general strike thath has paralyzed public services, hospitals and mass transportation across the cash-strapped country.
The strike also has led to the cancellation of more than 100 flights at Athens International Airport and closed the Acropolis and other major tourist sites.
The rally was part of Greece's first major labor protest this year as Prime Minister George Papandreou's Socialist government faces international pressure to make more lasting cuts after the nation's debt-crippled economy was rescued from bankruptcy by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Thousands of demonstrators remained at Syntagma square in front of the Greek parliament as groups of hooded youths threw rocks and Molotov bombs at policemen who respond with tear gas and flash grenades, blanketing parts of the city center in choking smoke.
Protesters chanting "Don't obey the rich -- Fight back!" marched to parliament as the city center was heavily policed. A brass band, tractors and cyclists joined the rally.
Unions are angry at the ongoing austerity measures put in place by the Socialist government in exchange for a 110 billion euro (150 billion U.S. dollar) bailout loan package from European countries and the IMF.
Police were on high alert because violence has marred many previous rallies in Greece during the past year.
On May 5, 2010, three bank employees died during an attack by hooded arsonists at a bank branch near the parliament.
Elsewhere, about 15,000 people rallied and minor scuffles broke out in Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki, while Stathis Anestis, deputy leader of Greece's largest union, the GSEE, said around 60 demonstrations were being planned in cities and towns across Greece. He said the GSEE was in talks with European labor unions to try and coordinate future strikes with other EU countries.
"February 11, 2011 (13:00 PM JST) – US military intervention in Egypt is prompting speculation over motives. (see video below) Extraction of American citizens is the stated objective, but does evacuating the American expat community in Egypt warrant the flotilla of US warships recently positioned in the Suez Canal? Does evacuating this expat community warrant the helicopters, Special Forces squads, and 2,200 Marines aboard those ships? Here in the land of endless budget cuts, the obvious answer is “doubtful”.
While protests flare across North Africa, why would the US stir up already seething anti-American sentiment in the region with such a move? Could today’s intervention lead to a long-term, “stabilizing” US presence in Egypt? Or could these events presage something far greater? What of Egypt’s neighbor to the East – Saudi Arabia – home to a quarter of world oil reserves?
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is clearly defying US pressure to step down from an office he’s held for nearly 30 years. Continued port strikes and unrest threaten vital ship traffic along the Suez Canal, and the likelihood of imminent military extraction of American citizens may present a tantalizing opportunity for oil elites to close the circle around the Arabian peninsula and place a major US force presence in Egypt – a presence with a potentially ominous goal: the eventual destabilization and Balkanization of the Arabian peninsula.
The Saudi royals are clearly opposed to US intervention in Egypt. See here, here, and here. This opinion regarding US meddling is understandable, as even the slightest provocation could spark similar civilian revolt on the Saudi side of the Red Sea.
US forces were evicted from Saudi Arabia in mid-2003 and relocated to neighboring Qatar, but material and troop strength in US CENTCOM’s theatre of operations – including the permanent US “mega bases” in Iraq, might suggest a more lucrative alternative to Iran as the central target of US military strategic planning (see map below).
Our rarely-wrong friend Michael Ruppert clearly articulated the Saudi encirclement scenario nearly nine years ago in an article published in From The Wilderness titled Saudi Arabia: The Sarajevo of the 21st Century. In it, he detailed how America’s third largest supplier of crude oil (behind Canada and Mexico) is extremely vulnerable, perhaps fatally so, to the very same instabilities rocking the kingdom’s neighbors to the west.
Given the now officially acknowledged realities of Peak Oil and corresponding economic and industrial collapse, it seems probable that US oil elites have concluded that the time is right to secure what remains of Saudi Arabian oil reserves by militarily “stabilizing” the restive nation.
MCR outlined the scenario in the 2002 article cited above and suggested the goal of Saudi Arabian Balkanization would be in the creation of oil-producing provinces to the east (to be governed by US-friendly leaders) and “holy site” provinces and principalities in the west.
With Saudi oil production and reserve capabilities now seriously in question by mainstream media (outlined for FTW readers nearly 7 years ago in this 2004 article), could America’s oil elites have decided the time is now to nail down those last vital resources? And, given US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, is there any hope these bold planners can handle the quagmire of unintended consequences these actions would undoubtedly have across the Arab world, Iran, the Russian Federation, China, Israel and perhaps even humankind itself?
For those of you who aren’t yet CollapseNet members I hope you’ll permit me an observation. Though I’m a part of the CollapseNet organization now, I started as a subscriber -- but not as a neophyte. I was an avid From The Wilderness reader and subscriber until its destruction by the hands of those same short-sighted oil elites.
Prior to subscribing, in about 2002, I was scanning the Internet for hours every morning in an effort to find out why a war was being planned against an already beaten, pathetic and essentially helpless oil state. Of all the websites I frequented, of all the thousands of pages of material I read, Michael Ruppert and the contributors at FTW put it together in a way like no other. I was impressed.
When I saw MCR had a new website in the works I knew I wanted access as soon as it was up for a single reason – the map. Mike’s map. His map is accurate.
Please have a look at the prophetic FTW articles cited above – and you’ll see that for FTW readers and CollapseNet members, these events are less “news” than points on a map drawn nearly a decade ago.
In a phone call from the town of al-Zawiya played live on TV, Col Gaddafi said young people were being duped with drugs and alcohol to take part in "destruction and sabotage".
Col Gaddafi is battling to shore up control of Tripoli and western areas.
Protesters have been consolidating gains in cities in the east.
Opposition politicians and tribal leaders have held a key meeting in the eastern town of al-Bayda to show a united front against Col Gaddafi.
'This is your country'
The telephone call was said to be an address to the people of al-Zawiya, 50km (30 miles) west of the capital, where there has been renewed gunfire reported in the streets.
Col Gaddafi said the protesters had no genuine demands and were being dictated to by the al-Qaeda leader.
"Bin Laden... this is the enemy who is manipulating people. Do not be swayed by Bin Laden," he said.
"It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaeda. Those armed youngsters, our children, are incited by people who are wanted by America and the Western world.
Those inciting are very few in numbers and we have to capture them."
He said the young protesters were "trigger happy and they shoot especially when they are stoned with drugs".
He said that Libya was not like Egypt and Tunisia, which have seen their leaders deposed, because the people of Libya had it in their own hands to change their lives through committees.
"This is your country and it is up to you how to deal with it," he said.
Calling the situation in al-Zawiya a "farce", he urged families to rein in their sons, saying many of the protesters were underage and beyond the reach of the law.
But he also vowed that those carrying out violent protests should be put on trial.
This was Col Gaddafi's second live TV appearance since the protests erupted on 15 February.
On Tuesday he said he would die a martyr in Libya and fight to the "last drop" of his blood.
Heavy gunfire has been reported in al-Zawiya and there are reports of a police station on fire.
One civilian leaving through the Tunisian border told Reuters: "It is chaotic there. There are people with guns and swords."
An eyewitness told Associated Press that soldiers had opened fire on protesters holed up in the city's Souq Mosque, while a doctor at a field clinic told AP he had seen 10 bodies and 150 wounded people.
Information from Libya remains difficult to verify and many reports cannot be independently confirmed.
Zuara, 120km west of Tripoli, was said to be in the hands of anti-government militias and defence committees of civilians, with no sign of police.
AMSTERDAM - Als de protesten vreedzaam zouden verlopen, viel er over de eisen van de Libische demonstranten te praten. Dat zegt leider Muammar Kaddafi donderdagmiddag in een telefoongesprek dat live werd uitgezonden op de Libische staatstelevisie.
Om tegemoet te komen aan de betogers, is Kaddafi bereid om de salarissen in Libïe te verhogen.
Kaddafi spreekt opnieuw zijn afschuw uit over de jongeren die tegen hem in opstand zijn gekomen. Voor de derde keer deze week zegt de omstreden Libische leider dat zij onder invloed zijn van drugs en negatief worden beïnvloed door “vijanden” uit het buitenland.
“De kinderen en jongeren zijn gebrainwashed”, zei Kaddafi. “Ze worden beïnvloed door Al-Qaida-leider Osama BinLaden.”
Kaddafi roept op tot een einde aan het geweld in zijn land. "Houd de controle over je kinderen, houd ze binnen", aldus de leider. "Zelfs de moslimbroeders gaan niet zo ver. Zij hebben al jaren geen geweld meer gebruikt."
Volgens Kaddafi is hij geen leider die jarenlang over zijn land blijft heersen. "Niet zoals de koningin van Groot-Brittannië, dat wil ik niet. Zij is langer aan de macht dan ik, maar daar zegt niemand iets van. Ik ben meer een symbolische leider."
Het is de derde keer deze week dat de Libische leider zich in het openbaar uitspreekt. Dinsdag liet hij in een lange en warrige televisietoespraak weten niet van plan te zijn om op te stappen en te willen sterven als martelaar.
Ondertussen lijkt Kaddafi over steeds meer steden in het westen van het land de controle kwijt te raken en blijft het bloedvergieten doorgaan. De steden Misrata en Zuara zouden definitief in handen van de oppositie zijn gevallen, zo bericht persbureau Reuters donderdag.
Ooggetuigen melden aan het Britse persbureau ook dat volgelingen van de Libische leider in de buurt van Misrata betogers hebben aangevallen. Daarbij zouden meerdere doden zijn gevallen.
Bronnen uit Zawiyah, zo'n vijftig kilometer van de hoofdstad Tripoli, melden dat voor- en tegenstanders van het regime donderdag met elkaar in gevecht zijn geraakt. Kaddafi bood zijn condoleances aan wegens vier doden die daarbij zouden zijn gevallen. ''Ik vraag me af of Bin Laden jullie daar wel voor compenseert'', zei hij.
Eerder namen betogers al de controle over op steden in het oosten van Libië bij de grens met Egypte, inclusief de regionale hoofdstad Benghazi.
The UN's nuclear watchdog says it has received new information on "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear development programme.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the report raised "further concerns" about Iran's activities.
It urged Tehran to co-operate fully with its investigations in alleged weapons experiments, saying it had not done since 2008.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.
The IAEA report was obtained by the BBC and made available online by the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis).
It says Iran is "not implementing a number of its obligations including clarification of the remaining outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme".
The country was also "not providing the necessary co-operation to enable the Agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities".
"Based on the agency's analysis of additional information since August 2008, including new information recently received, there are further concerns which the agency also needs to clarify with Iran," says the report.
Among those concerns were that Iran was not engaging with the IAEA on allegations that it was developing a nuclear payload for its missiles.
Six world powers are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme, and the country is subject to United Nations Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
Enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear purposes, but also to build atomic bombs.
The UN has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran over the years.
While these have made it more difficult for Iran to acquire equipment, technology and finance to support its nuclear activities, they have not stopped trading in oil and gas - the major sources of Iran's income.
At least nine people have been killed in anti-government protests in Iraq as thousands take to the streets in cities across the country for a "day of rage".
Baghdad has been virtually locked down, with the authorities banning traffic in the city centre and deploying several thousand soldiers on the streets.
Still, several hundred people gathered in Baghdad's own Tahrir Square, calling for reform, but not regime change.
Mass demonstrations are also being held elsewhere in the Middle East.
In Libya, witnesses say government troops opened fire on protesters in Tripoli, as the authorities crack down on opposition protests - at least five deaths were reported
Yemen saw some of the largest marches yet by pro- and anti-government protesters in the capital Sanaa
Egyptians in their thousands returned to Cairo's Tahrir Square to mark two weeks since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak from the presidency and to press for reforms
Tens of thousands attended a day of mourning in Manama for those killed in recent unrest in Bahrain
More than 6,000 people have joined the largest protests yet in Amman, Jordan, calling for greater political rights and economic reforms
Demonstrations are expected to be held in the West Bank city of Ramallah
The protests follow a wave of Arab revolts that have toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, and challenged the rule of Col Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
Soldiers blocked every road leading into Baghdad to try to stop protesters from carrying out their planned day of rage, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in the Iraqi capital.
No vehicles were allowed into the city centre and thousands of riot police took up position in and around Baghdad Tahrir Square.
Protesters threw rocks and stones at riot police and tried to overturn concrete barriers blocking the Jumhuriyah bridge, near the square.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged people not to join the protests for security reasons, and accused the protest organisers of being al-Qaeda insurgents and Saddam Hussein loyalists.
But several hundred people still braved the intimidating military presence to rally in the square, denouncing corruption and poor services, says our correspondent.
But the cry was for reform not revolution. The government was elected only a year ago and includes most of Iraq's main factions, he adds.
"We don't want to change the government, because we elected them, but we want them to get to work," the AFP news agency quoted one 24-year-old student as saying.
"We want them to enforce justice. We want them to fix the roads. We want them to fix the electricity. We want them to fix the water."
Another man told Reuters he had walked for two hours from the poorer district of Sadr City to attend.
"People are hungry. We ask the government to find job opportunities for the young. All my sons are unemployed, I'm here to express the injustice that we live in," he said.
The protesters also criticised the comparatively high salaries paid to MPs when many people are struggling to get by.
The crowds tried to pull down concrete security barriers in the centre of Baghdad
Outside Baghdad, protests have been more violent and at least nine people have been killed.
In the northern city of Mosul, at least three people died and 15 were wounded in clashes, a police source said.
At least two others were killed and 22 injured in scuffles in the northern town of Hawija as protesters set fire to a local council building, according to a police source.
Other deaths were reported around the country as protests were held in Falluja, Kirkuk and other smaller cities.
About 4,000 people protested outside a governor's office in Iraq's second city of Basra, knocking over concrete barriers and demanding the lawmaker resign.
They are the latest in weeks of protest as Iraqis vent their frustration over poor living conditions, widespread corruption, and lack of jobs.
Bedrijven pleiten ervoor dat het staatsbezoek en de daaraan verbonden handelsmissie naar Oman en Qatar doorgaan. Zij willen deze uitgelezen kans om de zakenrelaties tussen de golfstaten en Nederland te verstevigen, niet voorbij laten gaan wegens protesten tegen de sultan van Oman.
'Het staatsbezoek is belangrijk voor de banden tussen Nederland en de Golf en daarmee voor de economie', zegt werkgeversvoorzitter Bernard Wientjes van VNO-NCW.
In navolging van Tunesië, Egypte en Libië zijn ook in Oman rellen uitgebroken. Omani protesteren er al vier dagen op rij tegen het bewind van sultan Qaboos bin Said, die al sinds 1970 de scepter zwaait over het land. De betogers eisen politieke hervorming, hogere salarissen en meer banen.
De handelsmissie bestaat onder meer uit Havenbedrijf Rotterdam en ingenieursbureau Royal Haskoning. 'Het is jammer als het niet doorgaat. Wij hebben veel relaties in Oman, en zo'n koninklijk bezoek is altijd goed voor de banden', aldus het havenbedrijf. Royal Haskoning vindt uitstel zonde van de voorbereidingstijd.
Henk Pauw, ceo van het Omaanse bedrijf Sohar Aluminium, vindt dat de Nederlanders kunnen komen. 'De situatie is hier niet als in Libië. De regering doet heel veel voor het volk.'
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's embattled president on Tuesday accused the U.S., his closest ally, of instigating the mounting protests against him, but the gambit failed to slow the momentum for his ouster.
Hundreds of thousands rallied in cities across Yemen against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the largest of the protests of the past month, including one addressed by an influential firebrand cleric, a former ally of Saleh, whom the U.S. has linked to al-Qaida.
"Go on until you achieve your demands," Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani told tens of thousands of demonstrators in the capital of Sanaa. A former U.S. ambassador to Yemen called al-Zindani's decision to turn against President Ali Abdullah Saleh a major setback for the president.
Some warned that the current political turmoil and possible collapse of Saleh's regime could give a further opening to Yemen's offshoot of the global terror network, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
James Jones, former White House National Security Advisor, warned a Washington conference that Yemen's crisis "could deepen the current vacuum of power in Yemen on which al Qaida has thrived."
The Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, believed to have been involved in the attempted 2009 bombing of an American airliner, is seen as particularly active and threatening to the U.S.
Saleh has been a weak but important U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaida, accepting tens of millions of dollars in U.S. military and other aid and allowing American drone strikes on al-Qaida targets.
Garry Reid, deputy assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism, told the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, that the Saleh government was "the best partner we're going to have ... and hopefully it will survive because I certainly would have to start over again in what we've tried to build."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Yemen in January and urged Saleh to do more.
However, on Tuesday, Saleh seemed to be turning on Washington. In a speech to about 500 students and lecturers at Sanaa University, he claimed the U.S., along with Israel, is behind the protest movement.
"I am going to reveal a secret," he said. "There is an operations room in Tel Aviv with the aim of destabilizing the Arab world. The operations room is in Tel Aviv and run by the White House."
Saleh also alleged that opposition figures meet regularly with the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa. "Regrettably those (opposition figures) are sitting day and night with the American ambassador where they hand him reports and he gives them instructions," Saleh said.
The Obama administration rejected these claims. White House spokesman Jay Carney called on Saleh to focus on implementing the political reforms demanded by his people instead of "scapegoating."
Saleh's relationship with the U.S. has been ambivalent, and he has at times attempted to play down his military alliance with Washington. Anti-U.S. sentiment remains strong in Yemen, as elsewhere in the region, and Saleh's comments appeared to be an attempt to discredit the protesters by suggesting they are serving foreign interests.
"Part of this is putting blame on others, part of it is trying to manage the situation," said Christopher Boucek, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a U.S. think tank. "He (Saleh) does not want to feed into grievances that gave rise to the opposition against him, such as being too close to the U.S."
Thomas Krajeski, senior vice president of the U.S. National Defense University and former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, gave the Saleh regime a 50-50 chance of surviving the current crisis and he said it's not clear who is likely to succeed him. "We just don't know what comes next," Krajeski told a conference at Washington's Bipartisan Policy Center.
But Krajeski predicted that Yemen's tribes would quickly step in to establish a new government rather than let the country become what he called "an ungoverned mess," like Somalia.
Jonathan Ruhe, a policy analyst for the Bipartisan Policy Center, said: "It's kind of hard to imagine a post-Saleh world. If he should fall, the future is wide open."
In another attempt to silence critics, Saleh fired five of the country's 22 provincial governors Tuesday, including three who had spoken out against the government's at times violent crackdown on demonstrators.
In London, Britain's Foreign Office summoned a senior Yemeni diplomat to express "deep concern" over the deaths of protesters at rallies. "The government of Yemen should listen to the legitimate grievances of the Yemeni people," the Foreign Office said.
The momentum against the president, who refuses to step down until elections in 2013, has kept growing since protests erupted a month ago — inspired by successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. He has lost the support of key tribal chiefs and on Tuesday, opposition parties called their supporters into the streets for the first time. Crowds of tens of thousands each were reported in five areas of the country, including in Sanaa.
Saleh's government is widely seen as corrupt, with relatives of the president holding key positions in government and business. Grievances about the growing disparity between Yemen's poor — nearly half the population of some 23 million — and a small ruling clique have helped drive the protests. Yemen is the Arab world's poorest country.
In the port city of Aden, the scene of deadly clashes between police and demonstrators last week, thousands rallied Tuesday to express their anger. "We are demonstrating and calling for the downfall of the regime because Aden, under Saleh, has turned into a village," said Faiza al-Sharbary, a 45-year-old teacher. "At one time, it was one of the best cities. Therefore this regime has to leave."
In Sanaa, tens of thousands gathered outside the university, the heart of the protests.
Al-Zindani, the influential Islamic cleric, praised the young protesters, saying their rallies are "a new way to change regimes that we did not know 50 years ago."
"Go on until you achieve your demands," he told them. "You have come out demanding changes as a result of desperation."
Al-Zindani's role appeared unclear. Saleh, in power for 32 years, has tried to co-opt the preacher, appointing him last year as a mediator between the government and opposition parties over electoral reform.
However, al-Zindani is also thought by the United States to be a one-time spiritual mentor of Osama bin Laden. He has been placed on the U.S. list of terrorist financiers, and is the subject of travel and financial sanctions by the U.S. and the United Nations.
In the past, the cleric has criticized the U.S.-backed fight against al-Qaida, warning that it could lead to a foreign occupation of Yemen.
Some in Yemen said the current turmoil could strengthen the local al-Qaida branch.
"One of the principal worries of our regional and global partners has been that if Yemen goes into anarchy, the possibility of al-Qaida having easy access should be quite clear," said Mohamed Qubaty, a senior member of Yemen's ruling party.
Krajeski, the former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, said al-Zidani's decision to criticize Saleh and questioned his legitimacy was a major setback for the government. "That's a big deal," he said. "Saleh worked very hard to keep this guy in control. If Zindani is breaking with him that is another knock on his base."
Krajeski added though that he didn't think that radical Islam was a big factor in the current unrest, although it was part of the general opposition to Saleh's government.
Yemen has been the site of numerous anti-U.S. attacks, going back to the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor, which killed 17 American sailors. Late last year, several CIA operatives were targeted in a failed bombing at a restaurant in a Sanaa suburb. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was also thought to be behind the attempted bombing of an American airliner landing in Detroit in 2009.
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Douglas Birch in Washington, Raphael Satter in London and Karin Laub in Cairo contributed reporting.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis have held fresh protests across the country demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's three-decade rule in the country.
Saleh's opponents poured into the streets on Tuesday to mark "a Day of Rage" across Yemen, Reuters reported.
In the capital, protesters amassed from early hours of the day in the streets leading to a square near the Sana'a University, where students and anti-government demonstrators have been camped for more than a week.
"The people want Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave. The people want to overthrow the regime," chanted the protesters. Many of the protesters were wearing white shrouds reading, "Either we live happily or we die as martyrs."
Opposition sources and rally organizers described the turnout in the Tuesday protests as unprecedented since the beginning of the sit-in protest near Sana'a University.
The mass demonstrations came as Saleh sacked the governors of five provinces, mostly in the south, where anti-regime protests have been underway for the past two weeks.
At least 24 people have been killed in the clashes between government forces and anti-regime protesters, with violence in the southern province of Aden accounting for most of the deaths.
Saleh has resisted mounting calls to step down but has promised not to seek re-election when his current term expires in 2013.
The out-of-favor earlier offered to form a unity government with the opposition and religious leaders, but the opposition rejected the proposal.
Anti-government protesters shout slogans as they wave Yemeni flags during a demonstration demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside Sana'a University on March 1.
At least two people have been killed and four others injured in clashes between anti-government protesters and Yemeni security forces in Aden.
Private and public property was burned and damaged in the clashes in the southern Yemeni city, the Press TV correspondent in Aden reported.
The protesters are angry at widespread corruption, as Yemeni university graduates struggle to get jobs without connections and youth unemployment is high.
Northern rebels and southern separatists say they are denied resources and a say in politics.
As oil and water resources dry up, 68-year-old President Ali Abdullah Saleh is less able to pay off allies to keep the peace.