DUBAI // Yemen's president complained to Qatar over satellite channel Al Jazeera's coverage of unrest in his country, where thousands of protesters took to the streets on Thursday to demand a change in government.
"What the channel is doing only serves the Zionist entity and terrorist groups such as al Qaeda as well as the enemies of the Arabs seeking to ignite dissent," Ali Abdullah Saleh said, according to Yemen's state news agency Saba.
Saleh asked Qatar's emir to urge Al Jazeera to stop what he described as incitement, exaggeration and distortion. Qatar-based Al Jazeera, whose spokesman could not be reached for comment, aired pictures of streets crammed with protesters in Yemen. Its Arabic-language broadcasts are widely watched across the region.
Saleh, a key ally of the United States in a war against a resurgent al Qaeda wing based in Yemen, has ruled Yemen for over 30 years and is struggling to cement a peace with northern rebels and quell a southern separatist conflict.
Yemen, next door to the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, also faces soaring unemployment and dwindling oil and water reserves. Almost half its 23 million people live on $2 a day or less, and a third suffer from chronic hunger.
Current unrest appears to be partly a reaction to a proposal floated late last year by members of Saleh's ruling party, the General People's Congress, to end presidential term limits that would require Saleh to step down when his term ends in 2013.
Yemen's opposition coalition tried to rally against the idea in December, but failed to bring large numbers to the street. The wider support for recent protests is apparently influenced by Tunisia's successful revolt.
Saleh's party last week floated the idea of a new amendment that would limit a president to two terms of either five or seven years.
Opposition leaders say that proposal is not enough, as it is seen as allowing Saleh to run for two more terms.