Protests increasing in Algeria
ALGIERS, Algeria, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Algerian opposition protesters were barred from gathering in the May 1st Square in Algiers Saturday and those who did enter were beaten up, organizers said.
Opposition groups initially demonstrated against high prices for commodities, but are increasingly demanding political reform, The Wall Street Journal said.
Government officials have promised some concessions, including the lifting of Algeria's long-time state of emergency. So far, Algeria has avoided the violent clashes that left protesters dead in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya.
The protests were organized by the opposition groups Rally for Culture and Democracy and the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
Rally for Culture and Democracy spokesman Hacene Mezoued said some protesters were sandwiched between the police and pro-government demonstrators.
The newspaper said it was unable to get a comment from government officials or police.
Five dead in protests in Yemen
SANAA, Yemen, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- At least five people were killed in anti-government demonstrations in Yemen Saturday, where police firing tear gas and rubber bullets tried to disperse crowds.
Four were killed in the southern port city of Aden and one person was killed in Taiz, when a grenade was thrown from a car at demonstrators, the BBC reported.
In the capital Sanaa, protesters calling for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh clashed with police. Saleh has been in power since 1978 and he has said he won't run for another term.
Nationwide, tens of thousands of people took to the streets Friday in a "Friday of rage."
"Ali, listen, the people want you out," the protesters chanted.
Yemenis are angry about corruption in government and high unemployment. Uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, whose presidents were forced to step down, inspired demonstrators.
The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa said there has been "a disturbing rise in the number and violence of attacks against Yemeni citizens."
The embassy said the attacks are "contrary to the commitments that President Saleh has made to protect the rights of Yemeni citizens to gather peacefully to express their views."
Oman protests peaceful so far
MUSCAT, Oman, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Hundreds of people took to the streets of Oman, demanding reforms in the economy, education and politics, officials said.
Police did not intervene in the protests in the capital of Muscat Friday and demonstrators remained peaceful, RIA Novosti reported Saturday.
Another rally was scheduled for Sunday in Morocco.
Unlike protests in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia and Bahrain, the Oman demonstrations have so far been peaceful.
Demonstrators carried signs with slogans of support for Oman's Sultan Qaboos, but asked for reforms, including lower prices and better pay.
Pirates seize U.S. yacht with 4 aboard
MUSCAT, Oman, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A U.S. couple and two crew members aboard a yacht were taken hostage by suspected Somali pirates off the coast of Oman, maritime officials said.
The sailboat Quest was seized Friday afternoon 275 miles off the coast of Oman, the BBC said, quoting the maritime watchdog Ecoterra group.
The 58-foot yacht is owned by Jean and Scott Adam, a retired couple who posted their plan online to sail in the Indian Ocean from Sri Lanka to the Mediterranean Greek island of Crete with stops in India, Oman and Djibouti.The couple has been on a quest to circumnavigate the globe since 2004, Ecoterra said.
Somali pirates have increasingly targeted private yachts as international intervention has focused on protecting cargo and oil-carrying ships
The BBC said neither NATO's Indian Ocean anti-piracy command nor the European Union's NAVFOR force would comment on the hijacking.
Report: Iran resuming work on nuclear bomb
WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Iran has resumed research on development of a nuclear bomb, a U.S. intelligence report says.
The finding refutes a 2007 report that Iran had halted work on developing a nuclear weapon, The Washington Post said.
The report didn't say when Iran might develop the bomb and the National Intelligence Estimate said while Iran had resumed research, it described "serious debate within the Iranian regime … on how to proceed."
The new report is important because it represents the entire U.S. intelligence community, rather than a single agency, the newspaper said. But unlike the 2007 estimate, the new information will remain classified.
"Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon in the next few years, if it chooses to do so," said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear warhead have been slowed by international sanctions and sabotage. The newspaper described an incident in which a computer worm caused major equipment failures in centrifuge machines used in the enrichment of uranium.
A U.S. official said sanctions are causing major problems for Iran at a time when Tehran is facing increasing civilian unrest.