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US to continue arming Yemeni govt

The US has acknowledged that it has no plans to suspend its military assistance to Yemen despite the wave of anti-regime protests in the country.

“As far as I know, it has not been,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in response to a question whether the US administration was considering withholding military aid to stop the violence against demonstrators.

Tensions are running high in Yemen after 19 anti-regime protesters were shot dead by the police on Monday, with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh facing demands to step down without delay.

“The situation right now is a difficult one, the longer it festers the more difficult it becomes. Obviously, we are monitoring the situation closely. It’s fluid,” Morrell told reporters.

Washington has viewed the Yemeni president as a valuable ally against what it called the “threat from al-Qaeda.”

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in some cities such as Sana’a, Aden, Taiz, calling for corruption and unemployment to be tackled, and demanding that Saleh step down.

Some 40 percent of the population in the country live on $2 a day or even less, and a third face food shortages.

The protests have been met by the riot police or supporters of the Yemeni president who are armed with knives and batons.

Saleh has said he will not seek another term in office in 2013 but has vowed to defend his regime “with every drop of blood.”

The death toll in the country has reportedly surpassed 300 since the anti-government protests began in late January.

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