SANAA // Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh yesterday urged loyal clerics to issue a fatwa against those calling for his removal from power.
In a speech to religious figures, Mr Saleh attempted to build a religious base to confront rivals insisting on his resignation.
"You have to state the ruling of God and His prophet on those who reject the extended hand for peace and dialogue and insist on revolting against constitutional legitimacy," Mr Saleh said.
He returned last week to Yemen where clashes have been taking place between forces loyal to the president and defected troops protecting the protest camp in Sanaa where anti-government demonstrations have been under way for months.
The three-day conference attended by 500 clerics is expected to issue a statement tomorrow on the turmoil. Several leading clerics have already backed the protesters' demands and urged Mr Saleh to step down.
Judge Mohammed Al Hajji, the chief of the Yemeni Clerics Association and an ally of Mr Saleh, said that those who refused dialogue with the government were seeking "sedition". "There is nothing after sedition but chaos, destruction. There is no doubt that those who seek or call for sedition should bear the burden of that," Mr Al Hajji told delegates.
Yesterday, the violence threatening to engulf Yemen continued when the defence minister, Major General Mohammed Naser Ahmed, survived a suicide attack in Aden. A man driving an explosives-laden car blew himself up next to the minister's convoy. While Mr Ahmed was unharmed, medics said 10 people travelling with him were injured in the attack and three of them were in a critical condition.
Mr Ahmed survived a previous attempt on his life last month in which two of his bodyguards were killed. The defence ministry blamed Al Qaeda for both attacks. Yesterday's attack was the fourth suicide bombing in Aden this year targeting troops or officials from the military.
Also yesterday, tribesmen attacked an oil pipeline in the central province of Marib, disrupting oil exports, officials and tribal sources said.