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Fighting spreads in Yemen; 41 killed

SANAA, Yemen -- Government forces and tribal fighters exchanged gun and artillery fire in Yemen's capital yesterday, sending the crackle of gunfire and resounding booms over the city in fresh fighting that killed at least 41 people. The fighting spread to new areas, with tribesmen from the powerful Hasid confederation seizing buildings in neighborhoods in the city's south and northwest.

The urban battles over the past week have posed a new threat to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule. For nearly four months, thousands of Yemenis have filled the streets daily, calling for democratic reforms and Saleh's ouster. The mostly peaceful protests gave way last week to violence between Saleh's security forces and fighters loyal to Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the country's largest tribal coalition.

Saleh's often violent attempts to quash the protests have led the United States to turn away from its onetime ally, once considered a necessary partner in fighting Yemen's active al-Qaida branch.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday called Saleh's refusal to step down "a source of great conflict" that has caused violence.

-- AP

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