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Yemen denies reports of deadly clashes

  • Story Highlights
  • Ruling party newspaper, Almotamar, cites same official in reporting two deaths
  • Alleged clashes come on 19th anniversary of country's formation
  • President Ali Abdullah Saleh calls for responsible national dialogue
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(CNN) -- Yemen's state-run news agency denied reports that clashes between police and anti-government demonstrators left three people dead and 25 others injured in the southern port town of Aden.

"No clashes occurred between security forces and demonstrators in Aden," said Adnan al-Jefri, Aden's governor, according to SABA, the Yemen news agency. "The province issued earlier a decision to avoid any clashes with demonstrators and not to give opportunity to those who stand behind unrest."

However, the ruling party newspaper, Almotamar, citing the same official, reported the deaths Thursday of at least two people at the hands of "rogue elements."

Thousands of protesters staged a demonstration, according to media accounts, which was reportedly called by the anti-government Southern Movement. The group is demanding that the country's south secede.

Many Yemenis who live in the country's oil-rich southern Hadrmout region have expressed frustration with north-dominated governments, saying they have not equitably distributed wealth from natural resources since reunification in 1990.

The independent Yemen Post reported that anti-riot police fired bullets and tear gas at protesters. More than 120 people were arrested in Thursday's demonstrations, the newspaper said.

The alleged clashes came on the 19th anniversary of the country's formation when the states of North and South Yemen united after signing a peace agreement. But in 1994, a short-lived civil war erupted when former southern Vice President Ali Salim al-Baid declared cessation.

The unrest also follows a speech given this week by al-Baid, who relaunched his political career 15 years after fleeing to Oman following the war. He has assumed leadership of the Southern Movement and is again pushing for the south to split from the north, to become a socialist state.

Marking the reunification anniversary, President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for a responsible national dialogue to address all issues of concern to the country.

Saleh has been the head of state since the post was created in 1990 and is perceived by many Yemenis as a symbol of corruption.

Amnesty International has condemned his government's decision to blockade the offices of al-Ayyam newspaper in Aden and close the offices of six other newspapers.

The newspapers are accused by the government of expressing views favorable to southern secessionists in their coverage of recent protests.

CNN's Amir Ahmed contributed to this report.

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