SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen's president ruled out ever allowing the partition of the country, challenging southern separatists who called for demonstrations across their territory to press for independence.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoke on the eve of southern celebrations marking the anniversary of the end of British rule, underlined a hardening standoff between his government and the separatists.
"Those seeking division ... are seeking only an illusive mirage and self interest and not public or national interests," Hadi said on Friday in a speech carried by state news agency Saba.
"I will not accept any ... bargaining on the case of the south from any party, just as I would not accept any bargaining on the Yemeni unity," he added.
He spoke two days after a south Yemeni separatist leader and supporters walked out of national reconciliation talks meant to chart a new constitution for the U.S.-allied country, that is also facing a northern rebellion and attacks by one of the deadliest branches of al Qaeda.
Separatist groups called for protests in the southern port of Aden and other cities on Saturday.
Amnesty International urged the Yemeni government to allow peaceful demonstrations to go ahead, noting that in a previous protest in June, nine Yemenis were killed and a dozen were wounded by security forces.
"Even if some elements use violence, the police response must be limited to using the minimum force necessary to counter threats," the rights group said.
Wednesday's walkout dimmed hopes of progress in relations between the government and the separatists.
Hadi had given southern Yemenis an equal number of seats at the reconciliation talks despite their smaller population.
Hadi's government has also formally apologized over the 1994 civil war and agreed to return sacked civil servants and military officers to their old jobs. Yemen has also set up a fund to compensate those who have been sacked.
Southerners complain of discrimination by the north, including the dismissal of tens of thousands of people from state jobs and seizure of state assets and private property.
(Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)