SANAA (Reuters) - Thousands of men, women and children rallied in Sanaa on Wednesday calling on the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution backing a Gulf-brokered initiative for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power.
U.N. special envoy Jamal Benomar briefed the Security Council on Tuesday, and diplomats said Britain has been drafting a resolution on Yemen in consultation with France and the United States to present to the full 15-nation council.
"We hope the world's conscience will be awakened! We hope the U.N. will take a historic step for the Yemeni people," a speaker called out to the crowd gathered on Sanaa's 60 Street, where they were waving U.N. flags and peace signs.
"We call to the world, our voices high -- no protection, no guarantees, the people want to try the president! The people want to try the murderer!" they chanted.
Clashes between security forces siding with protesters and soldiers loyal to Saleh killed more than 100 people four weeks ago, but have all but abated as all sides await moves by the Security Council.
The U.N. special envoy left Yemen earlier this month after a fruitless two weeks trying to mediate between Saleh's government and the opposition.
A wily politician who has ruled Yemen with an iron fist for 33 years, Saleh has already pulled back from a Gulf Arab plan that calls for him to form an opposition-led cabinet and then hand power to his deputy before early parliamentary and presidential elections.
With rebels in the north, separatists in the south and an active wing of al Qaeda, Saleh had so far managed to stay in power with the support of the United States and neighboring Saudi Arabia, who fear that al Qaeda will exploit chaos in Yemen to launch more attacks.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attempted attack by a Nigerian man who is accused of trying to use a bomb in his underwear to blow up a plane in December 2009. The man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, appeared in a U.S. court on Wednesday and asked to plead guilty to charges against him. [ID:nN1E79B0KZ]
Protesters in Yemen first took to the streets in January of this year to demand reforms and an end to Saleh's grip on power in the impoverished country, where two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 per day.
"We are here to tell the Security Council they need to take a moral stance toward our peaceful revolution in Yemen," said Hana Yahya, 36.
"We turn to them to say we want freedom and we want to build a democracy. You need to stop supporting a dictator in this country."
The Security Council issued a statement on Yemen in late June voicing "grave concern" and supported mediation efforts by Gulf countries.
Russia and China had initially objected to that statement, but diplomats in New York said they were not likely to block the newly proposed resolution.
(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Writing by Reed Stevenson Editing by Maria Golovnina)