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Yemen Unrest Continues

8:46 AM, Mar 29, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The Wall Street Journal reports that "President Ali Abdullah Saleh has backed away from a deal struck over the weekend that would have him step down from power immediately but keep his relatives in charge of the country's elite counter-terrorism forces."

In the southern town of Sanaa, more than 78 are dead after an explosion at a munitions factory:

An explosion ripped through crowds of looters in a munitions factory Monday, killing at least 78 and injuring scores in the latest sign of weakening government authority amid Yemen’s two-month-old populist uprising.

The accidental blast came after soldiers abandoned the factory, allowing the looters to enter — one of a series of incidents in recent days in which government forces have left their posts. They include areas in the north, where rebels have long challenged the state’s authority, and the south, where al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch and secessionists have confronted government forces for years, according to Yemeni and opposition officials, diplomats and local news reports.

The spreading instability underscores growing concerns by the United States and its allies that thisfragile but strategic Middle Eastern nation could collapse if its political tensions are not peacefully resolved. It comes as high-level negotiations between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents over ahandover of power have stalled in recent days. Saleh declared that he would give no more concessions to the opposition.

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