Yemeni Interior Minister Mutaher al-Masri urged demonstrators Thursday to not clash with security forces during anti-government protests.
"We do not need chaos that harms public security and abusing democracy in the country," he was quoted by the official Saba news agency as saying.
Thousands of demonstrators marched on Sanaa, calling on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 32 years in office.
Supporters of the president, however, staged counter-protests nearby, chanting pro-democracy slogans in solidarity with the ruling General People's Congress, al-Jazeera reports.
Protests erupted in Egypt and Yemen following a revolution in Tunisia that brought an end to the regime of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali after more than 20 years in office.
The interior minister told al-Jazeera, however, that Yemen was a democratic country, stressing the protests Thursday were nothing like violent demonstrations elsewhere in the Arab world.
"Yemen is not like Tunisia," he was quoted as stating.
He said security forces wouldn't intervene as long as demonstrations were peaceful. He noted that the priority for security forces in Yemen was to make sure there was security as the country prepares for parliamentary elections in April.
Saleh was elected for another seven-year term in September 2006.
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