24 Mar 2011

State of emergency declared in Yemen

12:27 pm on 24 March 2011

Yemen's parliament has passed sweeping emergency laws following escalating street protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh who has ruled for 32 years.

The move gives security forces far-reaching powers to detain suspects and prevent demonstrations.

More than 50 people have been killed in the unrest, which Mr Saleh has said risks bringing Yemen into civil war.

He has offered to step down within months, but the opposition insists he must go immediately.

Only about 160 of the 301 members of the Yemeni parliament attended Wednesday's vote - those present overwhelmingly approved the imposition of 30 days of emergency law.

The BBC reports opposition and independent MPs, as well as some members of the General People's Congress, boycotted the session.

Britain is urging its citizens to leave Yemen immediately.

The Foreign Office says it is calling on British nationals to "leave now" as the government would find it very difficult to offer consular assistance in the event of further trouble.