Yemen's beleaguered president Ali Abdullah Saleh has dismissed his cabinet after popular protests demanding his resignation and constitutional reforms intensified.

The move came after Saleh faced the ire of a powerful tribal group in the country on Sunday. The leader of the Hashed tribal group, to which Saleh himself belongs, asked him to step down after government forces killed more than 50 protesters on Friday.

The cabinet dismissal followed the resignation of several ministers from the government following the killing. The slaughter of the protesters marked a high point in the month-long uprising, with Islamic clerics calling for soldiers to disobey orders and defect.

Al-Jazeera has reported that defections are already taking place. The defections are on all sides and this is just the beginning, the Doha-based channel quoted a Sanaa-based political analyst as saying.

Facing the direst challenge to his 32-year grip on power, Saleh said a fortnight ago that he would change the constitution to accommodate a parliamentary form of government. However, protesters dismissed his offer of reforms and agitations continued.

Yemen is looking down the barrel irrespective of whether Saleh goes or remains, as calls for oil-producing southern Yemen to secede are getting stronger by day. Yemen is also home to the regional headquarters of the dreaded al-Qaeda.