SANAA - Police using live rounds and teargas wounded more than 400 protesters who tried to march to a presidential palace in Yemen's Red Sea city of Hudaida early on Monday, doctors said.

Protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have brought President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule to the verge of collapse. But the president called on Sunday for an end to the violence, signalling he has no intention of resigning soon.

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Residents told Reuters that demonstrators organized the 2 a.m. march in protest at a security crackdown on rallies in Taiz, south of the capital, that killed two and wounded hundreds on Sunday. A few thousand took part in the march, they said.

"They suddenly gathered around the province's administrative building and headed to the presidential palace, but police stopped them by firing gunshots in the air and using teargas. I saw a lot of plainclothes police attack them too," a witness told Reuters by phone.

Doctors at a local hospital said nine people had gunshot wounds, 350 suffered from teargas inhalation, and around 50 had been wounded by plainclothes police hurling rocks.

The presidential palace in Hudaida is one of several homes kept by Saleh, 68, around the country. He was most likely at the presidential palace in capital Sanaa on Monday.

The president has seen a string of defections from key tribal, military and political allies in recent weeks, but Saleh has said he will not step down until he can transfer power to "safe hands".

Saleh has said he would be prepared to step down within a year after parliamentary and presidential elections and that an abrupt exit would cause chaos. But talks with the opposition over a transfer of power appeared to have stalled.

On Saturday, Saleh appeared more defiant as he thanked supporters and promised to protect Yemen with "blood and soul," which many read as a signal he had no plans to step down.

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