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In the Yemeni government’s harshest response to protests so far, police blocked demonstrators from approaching the presidential palace, hitting them with batons as protesters threw rocks. The clash occurred as President Ali Abdullah Saleh was preparing to talk with opposition groups in an attempt to prevent an Egyptian-style revolt. Saleh, who the U.S. relies on to help combat al Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch, has promised to step down in 2013, but opponents are skeptical—he’s backed out of similar promises before.