The Obama administration denounced the recent spate of violence in Yemen as "unacceptable," as tanks and armored vehicles were deployed in Sanaa, where thousands of demonstrators are calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after weeks of blistering protests.
"Our concern in the immediate term has been the violence that we've seen in the recent days," Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters on Air Force One en route to Chile. The White House "communicated to the Yemeni government that that kind of violence is unacceptable," he said.
While the protests in Yemen began peacefully, violence there has escalated significantly: More than 50 protesters died during a government crackdown on tens of thousands of protesters last week, with more than 100 people injured on Friday alone. The violence prompted Saleh to declare a state of emergency in the country.
Saleh, a U.S.-backed strongman who has ruled the country for three decades, was hit with a significant blow to his increasingly splintering regime, as three top Yemen generals sided with anti-government protesters on Monday. Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, a top general in the country, said he will instead order his troops to protect the anti-government protesters, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, a government official told CNN that several of Yemen's top officials and diplomats—including a provincial governor, ambassadors to China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, Japan, Syria, and the Czech Republic—all resigned.
Saleh dismissed his Cabinet on Sunday, in the wake of the resignation by two other top officials after the violent clamp down on protesters.
The recent unrest "should be channeled into a political dialogue," Rhodes said. "An escalation of violence is not in anybody's interest."
Yemen's defense minister, in a defiant speech on Monday, said the army will support Saleh against any "coup against democracy."
Saleh, who had previously promised to defend his regime "with every drop of blood," has already promised he will not seek reelection when his term expires in 2013. Saleh has offered other concessions, including creating a new constitution that would give more power to the elected parliament, but the opposition says he must step down immediately.