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Rival Yemeni army units clash in capital

SANA'A, Yemen -- Heavy fighting between rival army units shook Yemen's capital Friday, killing two soldiers in what could signal the start of a power struggle just days after autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to end his 33-year rule.

The clashes pitted Central Security forces commanded by Saleh's nephew, Col. Yehia Saleh, against troops from the 1st Armored Division, headed by Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who defected and joined the protesters in March. The crackle of automatic weapons and the heavy thud of mortars echoed across the city.

One soldier from each side was killed before the fighting stopped around dawn, a security official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

The two units have clashed in the past, but Friday's fighting was the first showdown since Saleh signed a U.S.-backed proposal Wednesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Under the agreement, he agreed to pass power to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi within 30 days, after a new government sworn in by the vice president passes a law protecting Saleh and his associates from prosecution.

Hadi is also to call for early presidential elections to be held within 90 days.

Also Friday, opposition parties that signed the Gulf deal selected Mohammed Basindwa as prime minister, said opposition leader Abdullah Obal. Under the deal's terms, the vice president is expected to charge him in the next few days with forming a national unity government.

Basindwa, though an independent, has held numerous positions in Saleh's government, including those of foreign and information minister.

If the Gulf deal holds, Saleh would be the fourth dictator pushed from power this year by the Arab Spring uprisings. But the agreement does not guarantee far-reaching political changes like those brought about by the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

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