WASHINGTON — The United States Thursday condemned deadly violence by Yemen's security forces against anti-regime demonstrators, and urged President Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign a deal "now" ensuring he steps down.
Washington "is deeply concerned by recent violence throughout Yemen, and joins (the European Union) in strongly condemning these troubling actions," State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
"We call on the Yemeni security forces to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from violence, and respect the rights of the Yemeni people to freely and peacefully assemble and express their views."
The United States, which has thrown its support behind a plan brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council under which Saleh would stand down, also called "on all parties to sign and implement the terms of the agreement now to ensure an orderly, peaceful transition of power."
The comments came after Yemeni security forces opened fire on an anti-regime rally in Taez on Thursday, wounding dozens, a day after killing 16 demonstrators in a crackdown on protests demanding the president's ouster.
The latest escalation came after neighboring Gulf states urged all sides in Yemen to sign up to a transition plan aimed at ending the political bloodshed, by which Saleh would quit office in 30 days.
Saleh has stalled the deal by refusing to sign in his capacity as a president, insisting on endorsing the agreement as the leader of the ruling General People's Congress, contrary to the demands of the opposition.
Last month, Washington welcomed the plan for Yemen's longtime president to step down, urging all sides to "swiftly" implement a peaceful transfer of power.