France slams Yemen crackdown, warns of sanctions

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France criticised on Monday the use of deadly force by the Yemeni government against demonstrators and warned it could seek targeted sanctions against regime officials accused of rights abuses.

Yemen is in the grip of an uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has promised to stand down after a presidential election in February, but cuts an increasingly beleaguered figure as his country plunges into chaos.

In a statement from its foreign ministry, France said government forces had fired live rounds at a peaceful demonstration in Sanaa on Saturday "causing numerous deaths and injuries."

"France called on the vice president and prime minister to assume all their responsibilities and exert their authority on all military and police forces to bring to an end violence against protesters," it said.

France called on commanders in the security forces to put themselves under the command of Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi, and expressed the hope that Saleh's departure "will reduce tensions".

"France and its partners do not rule out putting particular restrictive measures in place against members of the army or police or people who, by deliberately stoking tension, seek to undermine the political process."

Saleh has said he is ready to travel temporarily to the United States in order to calm the atmosphere, but Washington has said it would only issue him a visa for "legitimate medical reasons".

© 2011 AFP

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